Reflections and Prediction on the Advancements in Telemedicine

As InSight celebrates 20 years of providing telepsychiatry services, we look back at where the telemedicine industry has been and ahead in the direction of where the industry is going.

In 1879, Punch magazine envisioned the future of medicine with an Edison-esque dream machine, the telephonoscope. The idea being images, sounds and light could be transmitted in real-time to a remote audience. Even before the world was introduced to the first television, the idea of telemedicine was alive in the mind.

Flash forward almost 100 years later and AT&T has released its first video phone, NASA started delivering medical services via televideo to rural Native American reservations, and in 1999, Dr. James Varrell, Chief Medical Officer of InSight Telepsychiatry, committed the first patient via telepsychiatry.

Since its inception, InSight has been dedicated to transforming access to care and has been at the forefront of the latest telepsychiatry innovations.

Now, healthcare is moving into a new era. The industry has spent the last two decades collecting data and questioning what to do with it all. The vast array of electronic medical record systems have started to condense and align to standardize data across the spectrum of care. Interoperability has been the buzzword for years. The looming notions of Big Data and artificial intelligence have stepped from the shadows and into the spotlight. Additionally, while consumers have historically been shut out of their own care, the patient is quickly becoming King.

Scheduling an appointment with your therapist

Picture this reality:

You walk in the door at home and your smartwatch lights up. It’s suggesting you schedule an appointment with your therapist. Why?

You know you’ve had a series of pretty awful weeks – that giant project at work just fell through, you can’t remember the last time you hung out with your friends, and the scale in the bathroom is showing a number you’d rather not talk about. What you may not realize is that your watch and the voice controlled device in your living room know all of this too, and the data these devices have captured show you’ve reached a critical threshold (according to a universally-accepted algorithm) for depression.

When you ask the virtual assistant to add eggs to the grocery list, the inflections in your voice could be an indicator that your mental health is suffering. Your smartwatch hasn’t logged any exercise for a few weeks, another potential flag. Your calendar app shows you’ve been all work and no play. From your family history logged in your primary care clinician’s mobile app, your family has a history of depression, too. Based on the predictive models built through your data and millions of others’, an appointment with your therapist might help you get ahead of larger issues.

It’s a future that’s not far off from our reality. Groups like the Scripps Research Institute and IBM’s Watson are attempting to build these predictive models with Big Data collected through telemedicine and traditional care avenues. Prevention using these early indicators may not be cheaper yet, but it certainly can improve outcomes and increase provider efficiency. While behavioral health in particular faces a psychiatry shortage, our future lies in utilizing these new tools, this data, to drive better decision-making and better patient care.

Artificial intelligence can be applied to telepsychiatry to further increase access to mental and behavioral health services for those in need. This includes the use of voice assistants that could help to identify vocal inflexion or use commonly asked questions to determine if someone may be in need of mental health services. Additionally, chatbots can be used to educate individuals on various health concerns and general wellness, and help them keep up with their treatment plan. As we continue to treat the whole patient, gathering data from across both physical and mental health will be critical for anticipating health issues. Finally, while artificial intelligence will never replace healthcare providers, it can help to promote their productivity.

InSight’s roots extend much further than the last 20 years, and our thought leadership will have lasting impact into this new era. Initiatives like Inpathy, the first virtual group practice for behavioral health, has increased access to care for thousands of consumers to date. We are excited to continue to transform access to mental health care for years to come.

About InSight Telepsychiatry

InSight is the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with a mission to increase access to quality behavioral health care through innovative applications of technology.  InSight has over two decades of telepsychiatry experience and serves hundreds of organizations across the country with its on-demand, scheduled services and Inpathy divisions. InSight is uniquely positioned to offer scalable telepsychiatry services in settings across the continuum of care. InSight has a diverse team of psychiatry providers, a robust internal infrastructure and a history of adapting its programs to fit the needs of a variety of different settings and populations.  InSight has led the growth of the telepsychiatry industry and remains an industry thought leader and advocate.  To learn more about telepsychiatry and how it can benefit you or your organization, visit

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