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Medical News & Perspectives
January 4, 2006

Researchers Provide Psychiatric Care From Afar

JAMA. 2006;295(1):21-23. doi:10.1001/jama.295.1.21

Overcoming a medical condition or disease often relies on drawing from the latest advances in clinical treatments, but if access to such innovations is not readily available, many patients miss out. The field of telemedicine has attempted to address this issue, and now researchers in Canada are testing a program in which mental health care is provided from afar to children with conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder and anxiety disorders.

“The entire program is delivered at a distance, and we never see the families,” said Patrick McGrath, PhD, founder of the program, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, and Canada research chair at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. By providing children and their families with handbooks, videotapes, and weekly telephone access to coaches (nonprofessionals who work with the families to solve problems and offer encouragement and personalized help), McGrath and his colleagues have generated promising preliminary results and have been granted funding to embark on a pilot project to expand their care to two health districts in Canada. They hope that this type of therapy will increase access to psychosocial health care for patients in need.