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New Report Outlines the Importance of Telemedicine in Mental Health

A report in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics by a group of German investigators outlines the importance of telemedicine in mental health. A telemedicine care based on telephone contacts and individualized text messages was developed for patients with mental disorders to continue treatment after therapy in a psychiatric day hospital.

van den Berg and colleagues conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the telemedicine interventions after discharge from a psychiatric day hospital in the rural region of Western Pomerania in Northeast Germany.

All participants were recruited from psychiatric day hospitals. The study had a 3-armed, randomized design with 2 intervention arms (intervention 1: telephone contacts; intervention 2: telephone contacts and short text messages; both took place over a period of 6 months and in addition to usual care), and a control group with usual care. A total of 113 participants were evaluated at baseline and 6 months after starting the intervention.

Results showed, in the intervention group 2, a decrease in anxiety score after 6 months. Such decrease was significantly lower in the intervention group than in controls (p value: 0.042). The difference in depression scores between these two groups was not significant (p value: 0.1), with an average treatment effect of -1.73. In an exploratory sensitivity analysis restricted to the 75% of patients with the highest symptom scores at baseline, intervention group 1 yielded a significant effect for anxiety and depression compared to the control group (p = 0.036 and 0.046, respectively).

Telemedicine provides a novel option in psychiatric ambulatory care with statistically significant effects on anxiety. Also, a positive tendency was observed for depression,  in patients with higher symptom load at baseline.

Source: Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

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