A review of the first five years of the University of Arizona telepsychiatry programme.
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We performed a retrospective review of the first five years of activity in the University of Arizona Telepsychiatry Programme. The programme began in 1998 as part of a telemedicine service for underserved rural areas. Over the first five years, 1086 teleconsultations were carried out for a total of 206 patients. There were 159 adult (77%) and 47 paediatric patients (23%). During the study period, the racial/ethnic diversity of the paediatric patients increased, as did the number of follow-up visits for adult patients (average 5.3/patient). These trends suggested that telepsychiatry became an integral part of the mental health service system at the six referring sites. Adult patients completed 81 satisfaction surveys (51%) and psychiatrists completed 47 (23%). The responses showed that providers and patients found telepsychiatry services satisfactory, although in a minority of teleconsultations (18% for providers and 17% for patients) equipment problems were distracting. The continued use of the services suggests that the telepsychiatry programme fills a service gap in rural areas of the state.