Now, get psychiatrist counselling on your fingertips

Doctors say Facetime, WhatsApp, Google Hangout apt tools to give timely treatment, patients talk freely and without hesitation too

psychatrit-15-11-2016Meeting your psychiatrist is now just a click away, literally.

With technology growing at lightning speed, city psychiatrists are using it rightly by allowing online consultation.

“It is one of the easiest ways to instantly reach out to your patient. I recently counselled a 12-year-old Indian living in Saudi Arabia. She was having nightmares and anxiety for two weeks. As the family had shifted to a new country, seeking help from a doctor there was problematic. Skype ensured that she got her psychotherapy in the comfort of her home,” said Dr Parul Tank, psychiatrist, Fortis hospital.

Online therapy may sound difficult but social media has become an easiest way for most psychiatrists today. “Skype has become a valid tool, especially when patients prefer to continue their therapy with the same doctor even when they relocate or are travelling. Though there are online counselling, I still insist on meeting every patient at least once, but many prefer to do follow-ups online” explained Tank.

Tank said online consultation is upcoming trend in psychiatry and a boon to mental illness patients living in smaller cities and towns where finding psychiatric treatment can be difficult. “In India, one doesn’t approach a mental health expert unless it is a medical necessity, which isn’t the case in abroad,” said Tank.

Dr Harish Shetty, psychiatrist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital said WhatsApp, Facetime, Google Hangouts and Skype are the most commonly used social media tools to communicate with patients.

“I had a 20-year-old MBBS student who had exam anxiety. Staying in hostel did not give him time to visit personally to a psychiatrist and so, social media was the only option to communicate. But not all mental illness can be treated via online consultation and require one-to-one consultation. Anxiety and first level depression can be consulted online,” said Shetty.

He further said many patients also prefer follow-up via online chat as it is easily accessible and the sessions can be conducted from the privacy of their laptop or smartphone without the risk of bumping into an acquaintance in a clinic. “I also find that people express themselves more on social media. Patients tend to talk without hesitation and are more honest,” said Shetty.

Talking about the benefits of online consultation in psychiatry, Dr Milan Balakrishnan, psychiatrist at Bombay hospital too agreed that stigma for the patient of being seen at a psychiatrist clinic is not there. “S/he also does not have to pay in travelling. The only disadvantage is it requires extreme focus on my part as poor telephone lines and poor internet connectivity in small towns affects consultation. You can also miss on physical cues as person is not in front of you. Prescribing medicines is also a problem,” said Balakrishnan.