The Impact of a Primary Care Telepsychiatry Program on Outcomes of Managed Care Older Adults

Published:November 07, 2022DOI:



      The goal of this study was to assess the outcomes of a primary-based telepsychiatry intervention program for older managed care enrollees with depression/anxiety and with limited access to in-person psychiatric care.


      A pre-post design was used to examine service use (n = 218) and severity of depression (n = 204). Enrollment, claims, and depression and anxiety score data were obtained from the medical group. The implementation process and self-reported outcomes were examined.

      Setting and Participants

      The program was funded by the Senior Care Action Network (SCAN) group and implemented by a large medical group serving older adults who were identified as needing outpatient psychiatric care, including those with psychiatric hospitalizations, depression/anxiety disorders, comorbid substance use disorders, or other multiple comorbidities.


      Poisson regressions were used to examine changes in predicted rates of outpatient services, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations up to 24 months prior and 24 months following the first telepsychiatry visit. Changes in predicted severity of depression up to 2 quarters prior and 3 quarters following the first telepsychiatry visit were examined.


      The number of outpatient services declined significantly by 0.24 per patient per 6-month time frame following the first telepsychiatry visit. The number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations also declined after the first visit (0.07 and 0.03 per patient per 6-month time frame, respectively). Depression severity scores also declined in the quarters following the first visit (1.52). The medical group reported improvements in both wait time for appointments and no-show rates with the integration of telepsychiatry in primary care.

      Conclusions and Implications

      The telepsychiatry program lowered service use, depression severity, and increased better access to psychiatry care. The findings highlight the potential benefits of sustaining and expanding the telepsychiatry program by SCAN and other plans facing a limited supply of psychiatrists.


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