ADHD News & Research

Treat ADHD Symptoms Over Skype? A New Study Says Yes

Can a physician treat a child with ADHD from afar? A new study says yes, telehealth, or treatment supervised remotely, is effective for children with ADD.

March 24, 2015

If you live outside of a major metropolitan area, you know that finding local ADHD specialists is seldom easy. But now parents can confidently look beyond their geographic region for psychiatrists, therapists, and behavior-therapy consultants who offer their services via video conference, according to new research published this week in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The new Children’s ADHD Telemental Health Treatment Study (CATTS) found that new telehealth programs – such as therapy sessions delivered through real-time videoconferencing – are a successful way to improve ADHD symptoms in kids. Children who worked with remote psychiatrists (in addition to local primary care physicians), experienced a greater decrease in ADHD symptoms including inattention, hyperactivity, and defiant behavior than did children who saw only a primary care physician.

CATTS evaluated 223 children referred by 88 primary care providers. Each child was randomly assigned to receive treatment by a primary care physician with a telehealth consultation, or with an extended telehealth program. The extended program provided six pharmacotherapy sessions via video conferencing, and caregiver behavior training for parents by community therapists who were supervised remotely. The children were studied for 22 weeks and continued any ADHD medication prescribed by their primary care physician during the study.

Both groups showed improvement in symptoms. The participants were evaluated using the Vanderbilt ADHD Rating Scale (VADRS) completed by caregivers and teachers, and the Columbia Impairment Scale – Parent version. When the results of the five assessments were compared between groups, the children receiving extended telehealth services had significantly more improvement.

This research suggests that telehealth services can be used to treat children with ADHD in communities where access to specialty mental health services is limited or unavailable. The scientists hope that this will lead to more investigation of mental health treatment using hybrid approaches that make health care available to all children – regardless of geography.