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VA community mental health service providers' utilization of and attitudes toward telemental health care: the gatekeeper's perspective.

Jameson JP, Farmer MS, Head KJ, Fortney J, Teal CR. VA community mental health service providers' utilization of and attitudes toward telemental health care: the gatekeeper's perspective. The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association. 2012 May 4; 27(4):425-32.

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CONTEXT: Mental health (MH) providers in community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) are important stakeholders in the development of the Veterans Health Administration (VA) telemental health (TMH) system, but their perceptions of these technologies have not been systematically examined. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of CBOC providers about TMH services, current utilization of these technologies in their clinics, and sources of knowledge regarding TMH. METHOD: The study employed a mixed-methods design to examine aspects of TMH in CBOCs located in a VA network in the south-central United States. Semistructured, on-site group interviews conducted with 86 CBOC MH providers were followed by in-depth phone surveys with an MH provider identified as a key informant at each of 36 CBOCs in the VA network. FINDINGS: The utilization of TMH services varied widely between CBOCs, and the scope of services provided typically focused on delivery of medication management, with little provision of psychological services. Further, several important barriers to expanded use of TMH were identified, including limited education and training and shortage of dedicated space for TMH encounters. CONCLUSIONS: General attitudes toward TMH were positive, and most CBOC providers indicated that they would like to expand use of TMH in their clinics.

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