Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Maine Rural Health Research Center, Population Health and Health Policy

Telemental Health in Today's Rural Health System

Abstract: 

Telemental health has long been promoted in rural areas to address chronic access barriers to mental health care. While support and enthusiasm for telemental health in rural areas remains quite high, we lack a clear picture of the reality of telemental health in rural areas, compared to its promise. This Research & Policy Brief reports on the first part of our study—the online survey of 53 telemental health programs—and describes the organizational setting, services provided, and the staff mix of these programs. We draw from our telephone interviews with 23 of these programs to help describe the organizational context of telemental health programs. 

Key Findings:

  • The scope and volume of services provided are often modest suggesting that the business case for these programs may be weaker than the clinical case.
  • The programs in our study were able to secure funding and other supports to implement services, but their ability to maintain and expand services to address unmet need is less certain.
  • Telemental health primarily addresses issues related to the distribution of providers and travel distances to care. However, there are underlying practice management issues, common to all mental health practices in rural areas, which pose challenges to the scope and sustainability of telemental health, including reimbursement, provider recruitment and retention, practice economies of scale, high rates of uninsurance, and high patient “no show” rates.
  • It is becoming increasingly apparent that telehealth technology, by itself, cannot overcome service delivery challenges without underlying reform to the mental health service system.

Suggested Citation:

Lambert, D., Gale, J., Hansen, A. Y., Croll, Z., & Hartley, D. (2013). Telemental health in today's rural health system. Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service, Maine Rural Health Research Center.

 

Publication Type: 
Research and Policy Brief
Publish Date: 
December 18, 2013
URL: 
http://muskie.usm.maine.edu/Publications/MRHRC/Telemental-Health-Rural.pdf

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Hartley Retires as Director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center

David Hartley, PhD

David Hartley, PhD, the Director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center (MRHRC) and a Research Professor of Public Health has announced that he will be retiring from the University of Southern Maine August 31st, 2014. David came to the University in 1994 and has directed the MRHRC since 2004. Andy Coburn, PhD, Research Professor of Public Health, will take over as the new MRHRC Director. Erika Ziller, PhD continues in her role as Deputy Director. David has had a distinguished career in rural health and rural health research, and has made lasting contributions to the field with his work on rural behavioral health, rural disparities and health, and rural active living.

A celebration will be scheduled in early fall to honor David and his many contributions to the field and the University.

 

Learn More

Hartley Retires as Director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center

David Hartley, PhD

David Hartley, PhD, the Director of the Maine Rural Health Research Center (MRHRC) and a Research Professor of Public Health has announced that he will be retiring from the University of Southern Maine August 31st, 2014. David came to the University in 1994 and has directed the MRHRC since 2004. Andy Coburn, PhD, Research Professor of Public Health, will take over as the new MRHRC Director. Erika Ziller, PhD continues in her role as Deputy Director. David has had a distinguished career in rural health and rural health research, and has made lasting contributions to the field with his work on rural behavioral health, rural disparities and health, and rural active living.

A celebration will be scheduled in early fall to honor David and his many contributions to the field and the University.

 

Learn More

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