Last updated: May 02. 2014 7:07AM - 567 Views

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The advent of the computer has opened the world up.

Here in Richmond County, the computer is providing one more useful service.

For those needing mental health services, help may only be a mouse click away.

The Richmond County Daily Journal content producer Amanda Moss wrote about the treatment called telepsychiatry in a 1A story on Tuesday. For those that may not know, telepsychiatry is the use of video conferencing equipment to conduct real time mental health consultation between a clinician and patient.

The treatment, which is available through Community Care of the Sandhills with five locations in Richmond County, including the Richmond County Health Department, has attracted a following here.

In the past 16 months, Community Care has completed appointments for more than 250 new patients in the county.

One of the reasons for that local popularity may be because patients can go to their primary care offices for the service. Also patients can be seen more quickly instead of having to wait weeks for an appointment.

Initial studies have found that patients assigned to telepsychiatry have fewer cancelled doctor appointments. That is an important finding because if patients fail to come for therapy, they are not going to get better.

And although cost analyses are ongoing, on average, treating patients with telemedicine costs less than treating patients with in-person psychotherapy. A study with 500 soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder found that the telepsychiatry treatment saved about $10,000 compared with in-person therapy.

The Journal also story found that Richmond County, like so many rural areas across North Carolina, needs more mental health care providers.

Proponents of telepsychiatry say the treatment can provide people with help when and where they need it by speeding up assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Depression, panic attacks or marriage problems rarely come with the luxury of time, especially in rural areas.

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