Understanding the Business Case for Telemental Health in Rural Communities

  • David LambertEmail author
  • John Gale
  • David Hartley
  • Zachariah Croll
  • Anush Hansen


Telemental health has been promoted to address long-standing access barriers to rural mental health care, including low supply and long travel distances. Examples of rural telemental health programs are common; there is a less clear picture of how widely implemented these programs are, their organization, staffing, and services. There is also a need to understand the business case for these programs and assess whether and how they might realize their promise. To address these gaps, a national study was conducted of rural telemental health programs including an online survey of 53 programs and follow-up interviews with 23 programs. This article describes the current landscape and characteristics of these programs and then examines their business case. Can rural telemental health programs be sustained within current delivery systems and reimbursement structures? This question is explored in four areas: need and demand, infrastructure and workforce, funding and reimbursement, and organizational fit and alignment.


Mental Health Service Organizational Arrangement Telehealth Service Specialty Mental Health Service Telemental Health 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded the research on which this article is based.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors disclose no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© National Council for Behavioral Health 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Lambert
    • 1
    Email author
  • John Gale
    • 1
  • David Hartley
    • 1
  • Zachariah Croll
    • 1
  • Anush Hansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Muskie School of Public Service, Maine Rural Health Research CenterUniversity of Southern MainePortlandUSA

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