Receipt of Telepsychiatry and Emergency Department Visit Outcomes in New York State

Psychiatr Q. 2021 Sep;92(3):1109-1127. doi: 10.1007/s11126-021-09886-y. Epub 2021 Feb 15.


Telepsychiatry has made psychiatric care more accessible to emergency department (ED) patients. To date, most telepsychiatry studies have focused on specific populations or small groups of EDs. This study sought to examine the potential role of telepsychiatry across a wider range of EDs by comparing visit dispositions for psychiatric visits in EDs that did (versus did not) receive telepsychiatry services. ED telepsychiatry service status was identified from the 2016 National ED Inventory-USA and then linked to psychiatric visits from the 2016 New York State Emergency Department Databases/State Inpatient Databases. Unadjusted analyses and multivariable logistic regression models were used to evaluate associations between an ED's telepsychiatry service status and two clinical outcomes: use of observation services and ED visit disposition. Across all psychiatric ED visits, 712,236 were in EDs without telepsychiatry while 101,025 were in EDs with telepsychiatry. Most (99.8%) visits were in urban EDs. In multivariable logistic regression models, psychiatric visits in EDs with telepsychiatry services had lower odds (adjusted odds ratio 0.30) of using observation services compared to visits in EDs without telepsychiatry. The receipt of ED telepsychiatry is associated with lower usage of observation services for psychiatric visits, likely reducing the amount of time spent in the ED and mitigating the ongoing problem of ED crowding. An overwhelming majority of visits in EDs with telepsychiatry services were in urban hospitals with existing psychiatric services. Factors affecting the delivery and effectiveness of telepsychiatry services to hospitals lacking in psychiatric resources merit further investigation.

Keywords: Emergency department; Observation services; Psychiatry; Telemedicine; Visit disposition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • New York
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Telemedicine*