Journal article Open Access

Locum Tenens and Telepsychiatry: Trends in Psychiatric Care

Thiele, Jonathan S.; Doarn, Charles R.; Shore, Jay H.

Abstract Background: There is a national shortage of psychiatrists, and according to nationally available data, it is projected to get worse. Locum tenens psychiatry and telepsychiatry are two ways to fill the shortages of psychiatric providers that exist in many areas in the United States (U.S.). Employment and salary data in these areas can be used to illuminate current trends and anticipate future solutions to the problem of increasing demand for, and decreasing supply of, psychiatrists in the U.S. Methods: A search was conducted of the literature and relevant websites including PubMed, Google Scholar,, and information obtained from locum tenens and telepsychiatry organizations. Results: There is a dearth of data on the use of locum tenens in the field of psychiatry with little available prior to 2000 and few published studies since then. The majority of the data available is survey data from commercial entities. This data shows trends toward increasing demand for psychiatry along with increasing salaries and indicates the utilization of telepsychiatry and locum tenens telepsychiatry are increasing. The published academic data that is available shows that while locum tenens psychiatry is slightly inferior to routine psychiatric care, telepsychiatry is generally equivalent to face-to-face care. Conclusion: One can anticipate that as the national shortage of psychiatrists is expected to accelerate, use of both locum tenens and telepsychiatry may also continue to increase. Telepsychiatry offers several possible advantages including lower cost, longer term services, quality of care, and models that can extend psychiatric services. If current trends continue, systems that demand face-to-face psychiatry may find themselves paying higher fees for locum tenens psychiatrists, while others may employ psychiatrists more efficiently with telepsychiatry.

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