While Texas as a state has been suffering from a shortage of physicians, the same issue applies in prison. This is unfortunate since the need for mental health care is increasing rapidly. Fortunately, there is an alternative for healthcare services. Telemedicine has made everything easy for both the prisoners and physicians.
Take a situation where the healthcare provider is seated on one end, and the prisoner is seated on another, miles away, with a screen, yet the patient can receive the mental treatment required. Telemedicine brings the two parties together without an actual face to face meeting. Before the introduction of telemedicine in prison in Texas, psychiatrists would spend a lot of time in jail which was not easy for them. This is because they have to adapt to the sense of the environment of the prison.
The telepsychiatry provided to Texas inmates focuses mostly on diagnoses and managing medications, putting less focus on therapy. Telepsychiatry has improved access to continuous care, and it is time-saving allowing the physicians to attend to the patients timely.
There are few problems that physicians face when providing care in person. One of them is transportation. These are potentially dangerous individuals, and they can easily escape once they are let outside the prison which poses a danger to the community. Telepsychiatry minimizes those risks.
Moreover, some physicians feel threatened to be close to the inmates. Seating on the other side of the screen offers them a sense of safety since the patients cannot do anything terrible to them once they feel offended or they do not like the treatment. There have been cases of clinical staff being assaulted and, therefore, having them sitting next to the inmates is dangerous.
Texas has had this program since 1994. The psychiatrists get a list of the patients they are supposed to see virtually before the encounter day. The physician goes through the patients’ records to get prepared for the session ahead of them.
Just like in Texas, California has also been providing mental health through telepsychiatry, and this has proven to be of many benefits to the state. It has helped in eliminating staff shortage while at the same time ensures the provision of quality healthcare services.
Some people are afraid that this program hinders the inmates from experiencing the human touch which could lead to loss of connectivity. This has made some people hesitant in adopting the practice. Also, if the connectivity is reduced, the physician might have to cancel the session due to audio issues. However, most inmates love the program, and in some ways, it creates a secure connection between them even if they do not have a face to face interaction.