Defining competencies for the practice of telepsychiatry through an assessment of resident learning needs

BMC Med Educ. 2016 Jan 26:16:28. doi: 10.1186/s12909-016-0529-0.


Background: A foundational assessment of learning needs is missing from previous reports of telepsychiatry curricula. We used an in-depth needs assessment to identify specific skills required for the practice of effective telepsychiatry, and provide an evidence base to guide the development of telepsychiatry curricula in postgraduate psychiatry training. Many of these skills set telepsychiatry apart from practice in traditional face-to-face clinical settings, or result from adaptations to clinical practice to meet the needs of a telepsychiatry interface in patient care.

Methods: We used a qualitative, modified grounded theory approach to gain insight into areas of importance for telepsychiatry training in postgraduate psychiatry residency. 16 interviews of faculty and residents (9 and 7 interviews, respectively), allowed participants to reflect on their experiences in telepsychiatry. Data were then thematically analyzed.

Results: Interview respondents identified important aspects of the context for telepsychiatry training; the skills required to competently practice telepsychiatry; and the desired teaching and learning methods for acquiring these skills. Specific domains of competency were identified: technical skills; assessment skills; relational skills and communication; collaborative and interprofessional skills; administrative skills; medico-legal skills; community psychiatry and community-specific knowledge; cultural psychiatry skills, including knowledge of Indigenous cultures; and, knowledge of health systems. The skills identified in this study map well to competency- based medical education frameworks.

Conclusions: Telepsychiatry is increasingly being adopted as a solution to health systems problems such as regional disparities in access to care, and it requires explicit competency development. Ensuring adequate and quality exposure to telepsychiatry during residency training could positively impact our health systems and health equity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Competency-Based Education / methods
  • Competency-Based Education / standards*
  • Curriculum / standards
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / standards*
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Needs Assessment
  • Ontario
  • Psychiatry / education*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Telemedicine / methods
  • Telemedicine / standards*