Rain Freeman, Epidemiology Specialist, Leads National Study

Rain Freeman, an epidemiology specialist with the University of Montana’s School of Public & Community Health Sciences, recently led a study with the Emergency Medicine Network examining the prevalence and applications of telemedicine for the management of mental illness in emergency departments (ED) across the U.S.  The study, published online this month in the journal Psychiatric Services, found that 20% of EDs in the U.S. have adopted telepsychiatry services, and that these services were most commonly used in admission or discharge decisions and to coordinate patient transfer. 

“We really wanted to know what ED telepsychiatry use looked like across the country. While research exists on telepsychiatry effectiveness and outcomes for specific programs, there is limited information on national trends. Through two nationally-representative surveys, we sought to find out how many EDs receive telepsychiatry and what they use it for,” said Rain Freeman, who was first author of the study.

For EDs that confirmed receiving telepsychiatry, most (59%) reported telepsychiatry as their only form of emergency psychiatric services available. “Considering the amount of EDs with telepsychiatry as their only option, and that EDs receiving telepsychiatry were more likely to be rural, this suggested to us that telepsychiatry fills a critical role by enabling many EDs to access psychiatric services,” reported Ms. Freeman.