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SCARF mobile tele-psychiatry

Organization: Schizophrenia Research Foundation

Country: India

Forum: Mental health

SCARF’s mobile tele-psychiatry service is provided on a custom-built bus containing a private consultation room and a pharmacy. This bus travels to pre-identified sites in remote communities in Tamil Nadu and uses 3G mobile connectivity to enable psychiatrists based in Chennai (approximately 450km away) to interact with patients through video-conferencing.

Following the tele-consultation, the psychiatrist is able to dictate any necessary prescriptions to a clinic facilitator who then makes up the prescription on the on-board pharmacy and issues it for free. The patient receives a record of their care which is used to support continuity of care and information sharing between healthcare professionals and ensure that any additional investigations are carried out.

The initiative also engages the wider community through awareness campaigns, which include street plays, the distribution of posters and pamphlets, and the screening of films from a screen fitted to the rear of the bus. These broadcasts are designed to educate people about the signs and symptoms of psychotic disorders, increasing utilization of the service and reducing stigma.

The mobile unit covers a population of about 300,000 people across 156 villages and has issued treatment to approximately 1500 people, more than 50% of whom had never received treatment for mental health problems. Capital costs stood at 25,000 USD, including the bus and video-conferencing equipment, and the per capita cost is 12 USD per month. This includes consultations, medication, home visits and recurring expenditure such as salaries, petrol and internet bills.

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