Teletherapy is closing the provider gap in rural North Dakota

Teletherapy is closing the provider gap in rural North Dakota

There is a nationwide shortage of mental health services, but this shortage is even more pronounced in rural states like North Dakota. In response to the shortage, the state has boosted telemedicine as an option for mental health care.

The ND human services agency has started allowing providers who serve patients through its health centers to live in some of the state’s bigger cities — or even move out of state — and deliver mental health care to rural areas through video calls.

Expanding telemedicine has given North Dakota a way to reach more patients — and convince more psychiatrists to practice in the state. It’s helped them reach more patients in rural areas and those who can’t travel far for mental health care, including the elderly.

“We’ve definitely seen a significant impact on that recruitment and retention,” said Dr. Laura Kroetsch, of the North Dakota human services department. There are 22 psychiatrists who provide telemedicine care through the department’s eight clinics. Another three psychiatrists live out of state and provide telemedicine to those health centers. In December 2018, the department’s psychiatrists provided nearly 500 telemedicine appointments — more than 150 of which were with psychiatrists who live out of state

The state is also trying to prepare the next generation of psychiatrists to provide telemedicine to underserved areas. Once a week, psychiatry residents training at the University of North Dakota treat rural residents across the state by video chat.

Read the article “North Dakota doesn’t have enough psychiatrists. Telemedicine is helping to fix that” on Stat.com to learn more about North Dakota’s plan to expand telemedicine for mental health services.

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