Telemental health has been promoted to address long-standing access barriers to rural mental health care, including low supply and long travel distances. Examples of rural telemental health programs are common; there is a less clear picture of how widely implemented these programs are, their organization, staffing, and services. There is also a need to understand the business case for these programs and assess whether and how they might realize their promise. To address these gaps, a national study was conducted of rural telemental health programs including an online survey of 53 programs and follow-up interviews with 23 programs. This article describes the current landscape and characteristics of these programs and then examines their business case. Can rural telemental health programs be sustained within current delivery systems and reimbursement structures? This question is explored in four areas: need and demand, infrastructure and workforce, funding and reimbursement, and organizational fit and alignment. [Journal Abstract]
Suggested Citation: Lambert, D., Gale, J., Hartley, D., Croll, Z., & Hansen, A. (2015). Understanding the business case for telemental health in rural communities. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research. doi: 10.1007/s11414-015-9490-7 [epub ahead of print].
FMI: John Gale