Evaluation of telepsychiatry during the COVID-19 pandemic across service users, carers and clinicians: an international mixed-methods study.
Sheriff R., Hong JSW., Henshall C., D'Agostino A., Tomassi S., Stein H-C., Cerveri G., Cibra C., Bonora S., Giordano B., Smith T., Phiri P., Asher C., Elliot K., Zangani C., Ede R., Saad F., Smith KA., Cipriani A.
BACKGROUND: Worldwide uptake of telepsychiatry accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. OBJECTIVE: To conduct an evaluation of the opinions, preferences and attitudes to telepsychiatry from service users, carers and clinicians in order to understand how telepsychiatry can be best used in the peri/post-COVID-19 era. METHODS: This mixed-methods, multicentre, international study of telepsychiatry was set in two sites in England and two in Italy. Survey questionnaires and focus group topic guides were co-produced for each participant group (service users, carers and clinicians). FINDINGS: In the UK, 906 service users, 117 carers and 483 clinicians, and in Italy, 164 service users, 56 carers and 72 clinicians completed the surveys. In all, 17 service users/carers and 14 clinicians participated in focus groups. Overall, telepsychiatry was seen as convenient in follow-ups with a specific purpose such as medication reviews; however, it was perceived as less effective for establishing a therapeutic relationship or for assessing acutely disturbed mental states. In contrast to clinicians, most service users and carers indicated that telepsychiatry had not improved during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most service users and carers reported that the choice of appointment modality was most often determined by the service or clinician. CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE: There were circumstances in which telepsychiatry was seen as more suitable than others and clear differences in clinician, carer and service user perspectives on telepsychiatry. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: All stakeholders should be actively engaged in determining a hybrid model of care according to clinical features and service user and carer preferences. Clinicians should be engaged in training programmes on telepsychiatry.