Study: Telehealth, in-person visits equally effective for depression treatment

A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry investigated how psychotherapy delivered via telemedicine compared with traditional in-person visits when treating depression in elderly veterans. The study was led by Leonard Egede, MD, a researcher at Charleston-based Medical University of South Carolina and Charleston, S.C.-based Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The researchers identified 241 elderly patients with depression, 120 of whom were assigned to telemedicine treatment and 121 of whom were assigned to same-room treatment. They measured psychotherapy outcomes based on quality of life, satisfaction, treatment credibility and service delivery perception metrics; these variables were compared at four points throughout the year.

Overall all time points, there was no significant difference in patient satisfaction or treatment credibility. The quality of life scores showed no significant differences between the two treatment groups at the end of the study; however, there was little significance throughout the intermediate points.

The researchers concluded that telemedicine is a "viable alternative modality for providing evidence-based psychotherapy for elderly patients with depression."

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