Effectiveness and feasibility of telepsychiatry in resource constrained environments? A systematic review of the evidence
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OBJECTIVE: A review of systematic reviews of the effectiveness and feasibility of videoconference-based telepsychiatry services for resource constrained environments was conducted. Specifically with the aim of producing an evidence-based review of the effectiveness and feasibility of videoconference-based telepsychiatry services in resource constrained countries like South Africa. METHODS: Eight key questions on telepsychiatry effectiveness and feasibility were identified and inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed. Review of citations from 2000-2011 from CINAHL, Medline, Pubmed, PsycInfo, EBSCOhost, SABINET, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CCTR), Cochrane Controlled Trial Registry (CCTR), Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE), unpublished abstracts through NEXUS and internet search engines (Google/Google scholar) was conducted. RESULTS: Ten systematic reviews were included for review. Despite the methodological limitations and heterogeneity of the systematic reviews, there appears to be good evidence of effectiveness (reliability and improved outcomes) and feasibility (use, satisfaction, acceptability and cost) for videoconference-based telepsychiatry internationally. The application of this evidence in lower middle income countries is dependent on the integration of telepsychiatry into local health system contexts. CONCLUSION: Based on the evidence, resource constrained countries such as South Africa should be encouraged to develop telepsychiatry programs along with rigorous evaluation methods.