Improving Access though Tele-Psychiatry (IMPACT)
Funding agency: Medical Research Council, UK
Duration: January 2017 to December 2018
Research investigators: Prof Richard Velleman, Dr Abhijit Nadkarni
There is a growing burden of mental illnesses in India; however, the existing mental health professionals can provide for only 29% of the needs, leading to a treatment gap of 70%. One of the solutions to overcome this supply side barrier is the use of information and communication technology such as Tele-Psychiatryto deliver some healthcare tasks via video-conferencing. Our study, IMPACT aims to examine the feasibility and acceptability of the integration of Tele-Psychiatry into primarycare services in an attempt to bridge the MH treatment gap. For a country where 70% population live in rural areas , but 70% of its mental health work force is in the cities, this has significant policy implications especially for the National Mental Health Program which has been struggling to provide mental health care across the country for want of trained mental health workforce. The fact that India has high competency and coverage levels in information and communication technology also makes this a promising option to bridge the mental health treatment gap.
The objectives of the study are to examine
1) the feasibility of delivering psychiatric consultation services for mental health problemsvia Tele-Psychiatry in primary care;
2) the acceptability of Tele-Psychiatry services to a range of stakeholders such as delivery agents, patients, and family members;
3) the impact of psychiatric consultation services via Tele-Psychiatry on clinical outcomes in patients with mental health problems identified in primary care.
The project will be based in selected Primary Health Centres which fall under the remit of the Directorate of Health Services, Goa.
Formative research study, utilizing a mixed-methods approach followed by a before-after uncontrolled treatment cohort.
Measurements: Outcomes will be assessed using standardized clinical measures at three-months post recruitment. In-depth interviews will beconducted with patientsand their family members, for their experiences and perceived acceptability of the service.
The study will demonstrate the feasibility of delivering mental health care using tele – psychiatry. It will givein sights into the acceptability of tele-psychiatry, and its impact on the end-users. On a broader scale, the study has the potential to inform further investigation of the intervention through a randomised controlled trial, and may have an impact on the policy landscape of India and similar countries.