In an era of increased awareness of, and concern for, mental health issues, one Texas doctor says re-writing the rules for practitioners will lead to improved "distance" treatment of patients in need of psychiatric help, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Austin psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Truong has authored a proposal to align federal and state laws, and regulatory rules such as those issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, to support and streamline mental health diagnosis and prescriptive treatment through "telemedicine," also known as "telehealth."
Telemedicine allows a physician in one location to examine, diagnose and recommend treatment for a patient in another area over a video link. Doctors have for years employed the method for routine and even surgical consultation. But Truong says many mental health care practitioners are reluctant to "e-prescribe" and run afoul of often conflicting legal mandates.
"One of the barriers to having telehealth more widely adopted,": says Truong, "is the ambiguity of federal and DEA laws that have been written.
"This ambiguity has led to a lot of doctors feeling nervous and unwilling to prescribe controlled substances," via telemedical portals, she adds.
Truong says consistent rules for mental health practitioners will improve treatment for patients in remote or under-served areas of Texas where there are no qualified professionals.
Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., she says, can look to Texas legislation for consistent rules that protect psychiatrists and other medical professionals who reach out online to patients suffering from psychological or mental disorders.
A 34-member Texas Medical Association delegation to this week's annual American Medical Association Conference in Chicago is seeking AMA endorsement of Truong's idea and its adoption as a part of the national group's upcoming legislative agenda.