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Study: Telemedicine as Effective as In-Person Treatment for Depression

December 2, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Treating depression with evidence-based psychotherapy via videoconferencing can be a viable alternative to in-person treatment, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston aimed to analyze the impact of telepsychology and same-room care on functioning, satisfaction and perception of care based on trial of psychotherapy delivered via telemedicine or same-room  care to elderly patients with depression.

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 241 depressed elderly veterans to receive eight weeks of psychotherapy either by visiting a clinician’s office or by using in-home videoconferencing technology. All of them could also take antidepressants.

The primary outcomes studied included quality of life, satisfaction, treatment credibility and service delivery perception scores obtained at four weeks, eight weeks, three months, and 12 months.

According to the study, the results indicated that there was no significant difference between the two treatment groups by the end of the study period with regard to quality of life, with little significance shown throughout the intermediate time points. Similarly, over all time points, there was no statistically significant difference in patient satisfaction or treatment credibility.

“This study found that telemedicine is a viable alternative modality for providing evidence-based psychotherapy for elderly patients with depression. Results provide evidence that quality of life and satisfaction with care are not adversely influenced by the decision to use a telehealth modality instead of in-person treatment, and, as a result, resources can be devoted to offering services in patients’ homes through telemedicine,” the study authors wrote.

“Based on results of this study and prior research, telemedicine is a highly relevant option to address the needs of rural patients or those living in remote locations, while providing patient satisfaction and quality of life similar to that provided by in-person treatment delivered at clinics,” lead study author Leonard Egede, M.D., a researcher at the at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, said.

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