Addressing Psychiatric Shortages in Rural Communities with a Diverse Model of Care Delivery and Training

Interactive Breakout

April 16, 2019 | 10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. CDT

Throughout the nation, access to traditional psychiatric services has become an escalating concern. The problem is worsened by an ongoing national shortage of psychiatrists and an increasing need for behavioral health services. The rural areas of our country have been hit particularly hard due to a lack of community psychiatrists and the difficulties of transportation, whether by a distance or financial barrier. Because of this, University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital (WPH) created the telepsychiatry division in 2007 with the goal of expanding access to high-quality psychiatric care. The program uses secure, synchronous videoconferencing technology to perform face-to-face psychiatric care across distances.

At WPH, telepsychiatry is a multi-faceted program and includes a variety of services to meet our patients’ needs. To date we have completed over 45,000 telepsychiatry visits into 17 counties throughout Pennsylvania via multiple models of care:

  • outpatient psychiatric care in rural mental health clinics
  • psychiatric consult & liaison services within medical hospitals
  • psychiatric inpatient services
  • psychiatric care into nursing homes
  • direct to consumer services

We employ 23 telepsychiatrists with expertise in many clinical arenas: adult, geriatrics, child and adolescence, women’s mental health, consult and liaison, psychosis, anxiety disorders, intellectual disabilities, community psychiatry, addiction medicine, academic psychiatry, etc. Each doctor is carefully chosen using the same criteria as in-person psychiatrists at the Western Psychiatric Hospital and our affiliated UPMC community hospitals. Our telepsychiatry team members are not only a part of our virtual academic community, they are part of the communities and clinics we serve throughout Pennsylvania. In this session we will focus on challenges in telepsychiatry care delivery, strategy for expansion, methods for physician engagement, the creation of a virtual academic community, and training the next generation of telepsychiatrists.


  • Gina Perez, MD, Associate Chief of the Behavioral Health Network and Telepsychiatry, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital