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Is telepsychiatry the new normal? Wait times in Canada are unacceptable.

Apr 18
Telehealth provider MDLive  has become the first company to offer telepsychiatry and other virtual mental health services in all 50 states. MDLive Chief Behavioral Health Officer Dr. John Sharp said “I think it’s going to be one of the new norms; you can’t imagine banking without ATMs or online services anymore”.
A study at Fraser University indicated that the median wait times for psychiatric treatment in Canada was 16.8 weeks in 2009. The delay for treatment in 2009 far exceeds what physicians would consider clinically reasonable, said Nadeem Esmail, Fraser Institute Director of Health System Performance Studies.  Simon Fraser did a study in November 2016 of wait times for 10 specialties but psychiatrist was not amongst them.
According to the Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) 2016 report card, more than 6,500 adolescents are waiting over a year to access mental health treatment in Ontario.
YouthCan IMPACT Toronto is working with Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and several other community agencies to address the long wait times and enhance the existing mental health services for adolescents. Three mental health walk-in clinics for adolescents aged 11 to 25 will be opening in Toronto to offer peer support and system navigation, internet-based tools and interventions, and on-site access to primary health care and psychiatric services, as needed. One of the three walk-in clinics is now open in the Scarborough’s East Metro Youth Services at “What’s up walk-in”.

Unfortunately, there are no services like these walk-in clinics currently available to adults over the age of 25. Despite large increases in health spending, the health care system is still clearly failing patients in terms of delivering timely access to medical services. 
Mensante strives to maintain up-to-date with evidence-based practices to make innovative resources available to our supported organizations. Included in our ongoing investigations are opportunities to learn more about the experiences of Canadians with wait times for psychiatric services in Canada. If you have information on wait times for psychiatric services in Canada, or an experience you would like to share, please contact [email protected]

Dr. Sam Ozersky, MD

Sam is Mensante's founder and CEO. He speaks and writes extensively about the critical relationship between mental health and the workplace.