Effectiveness of teleconsultation use in access to mental health services during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic in the Dominican Republic

Indian J Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;62(Suppl 3):S492-S494. doi: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_1047_20. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


BACKGROUND: The unique aspects of the global situation with respect to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic places a significant burden on health and mental health services. During this period, there has been an increased demand in mental health-care services, whose prepandemic access was lower than necessary in many developing countries and is currently limited by international social distancing recommendations and protocols.

AIM: This study aims to determine the effectiveness of teleconsultation use to increase access to mental health services, provided by volunteer staff during the quarantine of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dominican Republic.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A special telephone service was enabled, organized by different governmental and private entities, in addition, it was published a list of telephone numbers of a team of volunteers consisting of 598 psychologists and seventy psychiatrists, who interacted from March 25 to May 17 with people who needed their help using calls, video calls, and electronic messaging services. After providing mental healthcare, each volunteer completed an online form to record relevant consultation data provided with a total of 6800 interventions to date.

RESULTS: Nearly 67.3% of the interventions were requested by women. About 77.8% were adults between the ages of 18 and 59. 27.1% of the interventions were requested by people who worked as health personnel. Forty-six percent of the interventions were requested by people living in the province of Santo Domingo and 4.8% by people living outside the country. Of the interventions, 43% reported anxiety, 26%, sleep problems, 15%, depression, and 2% reported behaviors related to suicide. Of all the interventions, 5.3% required referral to a crisis intervention unit for face-to-face follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: The enablement of this teleconsultation model and the number of interventions made during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests that access to mental healthcare in the Dominican Republic has increased. Problems with anxiety, sleep, and depression are common during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only a small group of patients have needed to be referred for face-to-face care, demonstrating that teleconsultation has been an effective tool.

PMID:33227069 | PMC:PMC7659797 | DOI:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_1047_20