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Psych Congress NetworkThe Role of Telehealth in Rising ADHD Diagnosis Rates

Examining the impact of telepsychiatry on adult ADHD diagnosis rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the benefits, challenges, and evolving regulations in virtual mental health care.

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly boosted the use of telehealth, which became a pivotal tool in maintaining access to psychiatric care, including for ADHD. Dr. Lenard A. Adler, director of the Adult ADHD Program at NYU Langone Health, shared insights at the 2024 APA Annual Meeting on how telepsychiatry contributed to rising ADHD diagnosis rates in adults, the nuances of virtual evaluations, and the legal challenges clinicians face with remote prescribing.

Key Points:

  • Pandemic Impact: Telepsychiatry became essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing remote consultations for safety and accessibility.
  • Access Improvement: Telehealth allowed patients who could not travel to access psychiatric care, thus increasing the number of patients diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Evaluation Challenges: Virtual consultations present unique challenges, such as limited physical observation, but also provide opportunities like viewing patients’ environments to better understand their symptoms.
  • Legal Considerations: The DEA temporarily suspended some requirements for stimulant prescriptions, such as face-to-face evaluations, which are now being reinstated. Clinicians must stay updated on these evolving regulations.
  • Increased Diagnosis Rates: More adults sought ADHD diagnoses during the pandemic, not solely due to telehealth but also due to increased awareness and recognition of symptoms.
  • Evaluation Consistency: Despite the remote setting, the process of ADHD evaluation remains rigorous, utilizing rating scales and thorough assessments to ensure accurate diagnoses.
  • Under-Diagnosis Issues: Despite the rise in diagnoses, ADHD remains under-diagnosed, putting pressure on the medication supply chain.
  • Future Directions: The field of telepsychiatry continues to evolve, requiring ongoing adaptation from clinicians to ensure compliance with legal standards and to maintain the quality of patient care.

“When I evaluate an adult with ADHD, I’m able to ask them to turn the camera around and let me see their room, and I can actually see their stacks of papers right there, and I can’t do that if they’re in the office.”
– Lenard A. Adler, MD, Director of the Adult ADHD Program at NYU Langone Health

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