Of all the medical specialties that telemedicine has caused during the pandemic, perhaps the one with the greatest and most immediate and lasting effects is behavioral and mental health.
Mental health appointments usually do not require any vitals or specimens, nor do they require a face-to-face meeting (although therapists may personally observe physical signs of the whole body). It is enough to speak through video or audio.
We spoke with Dr. Janice Johnston, co-founder and chief medical officer of Redirect Health, a telehealth technology and services company, to receive her expert observations on the major ways in which telehealth is changing mental health treatment in America. mental health treatment, the challenges of telehealth in treating mental health, and what improvements can be made in telehealth to treat mental health?
Q. What is the biggest way to change the treatment of mental health problems in the US?
A. Prior to COVID-19 and historically in the U.S., there has been a negative stigma surrounding receiving mental health care. Although there have been many movements and campaigns trying to eradicate stigma, many people have moved away from seeking professional help because of a lack of coverage on their health plans, high copay and fear.
As teleosity spreads, the availability of mental health services continues to grow and is more accessible than ever before. Gone are the days of driving to appointments and sitting in a waiting room with the feeling that all eyes are on you. Social media has also created a platform for mental health activists and we are seeing in real time the number of people seeking treatment or regular mental care.
COVID-19 accelerated the need for more access and new ways to treat mental health, such as telehealth. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also seen that many large insurance companies offer permanent or temporary plan benefits that include mental health services.
Teleosity has made it easier for insurers to incorporate these benefits into their plans at a lower out-of-pocket cost to patients. In many cases, insurance providers also waived the full cost of visits when using teleos.
Most people do not want to think or treat themselves because they choose to seek mental health treatment, the stigma surrounding it can make them feel judged and prevent them from choosing care.
Teleosity has now made it possible for people to access care from the privacy of their own homes, making the decision to seek care much easier and more convenient. Being able to talk to a mental health professional from home has allowed patients to choose the setting that gives them the most comfort, making it much easier to open up with a new person and share their concerns.
Q. What impact has increased accessibility to teleosity had on mental health treatment in the US?
A. The COVID-19 pandemic forced changes for Americans affected by mental well-being, such as working from home, enforcing quarantine, not spending time with friends and family, and feeling isolated.
This led to a rise in mental health problems, with most non-emergency medical treatments closed due to safety concerns and enforcement of quarantine. Teleosity was a need we did not see, and the pandemic accelerated this service because of the timely needs that were emerging.
With the increasing demand for mental health care, telehealth has been the answer for many. People living in farming communities or underdeveloped areas, in particular, have limited access to health care specialties, especially mental health. One of the main effects of increasing the accessibility of telehealth is that these communities have been able to turn to telehealth as an option when they have no alternative.
Different from agriculture or at least one of the communities in the city, many people in the city see that personal care is not difficult, but that it can be a matter of providing it and getting to the appointment. Another important effect of increasing accessibility is that teleosity is often a much more cost-effective option, as the person’s attention can regularly be more than double the cost.
Think of all the wasted money and time that you have to take away from work, which can lead to a loss of pay, the need to hire a babysitter, or paying for gas while going to appointments. With telehealth, patients will be able to pay for a scheduled appointment in an hour that is convenient and valid for them.
In addition, while most offices offer services during standard office hours, many mental health services provide care before and after business hours, so patients have more flexibility to organize.
There are also many cultural barriers and health inequalities that many minority communities face that prevent them from seeking mental health care.
During the pandemic, these communities saw an increase in the use of mental telehealth. Although there are several reasons for this rise, we have seen that telehealth has been able to overcome some of the obstacles that these groups have had to overcome.
On the one hand, the affordability of telehealth has made services much more accessible to minority groups or lower-income people, which allows mental health to be included in their budgets. In addition, minority groups have experienced higher rates of depression and anxiety, rather than exacerbating pandemics, so the demand from these communities for the reduction of negative stigma about mental care through teleosity has led to these opportunities.
Finally, telehealth allows people with language barriers in the U.S. to better understand their cultural background to a wider group of mental health professionals in collaboration with their ability to speak the language of their choice.
Q. What are the challenges of teleosity in treating mental health problems, and the cases in which personal attention should be sought?
A. Although teleosity has spread access to mental health care across the country, there are still some barriers that can lead to personal care.
First and foremost, privacy. Although many patients prefer teleosity to have an appointment in the privacy of their own homes, there are people who do not have that privacy in their home.
Some people may live in multi-generational homes where others are at home and staring at their ear, or they may share a room with others with privacy that is not immediately available. This can allow the patient to take calls from the car, which is always convenient or not preferred. As a result, people in these situations may prefer to take personal care of themselves.
Second, safe places. While some people prefer virtual care for a variety of reasons, others believe that virtual mental health care is cold and distant and favor the person’s care to feel more engaged with their mental health provider. Sometimes removing it from a regular home setting can help create a safe place for the patient to discuss his or her mental health concerns.
Above all, it is a factor of direct support groups, which can be more attractive and easy to use than personal ones. Often, direct support groups are used for people looking to overcome addictions, and being able to differentiate them from their usual environment can help them get out of the environment, even for a moment.
And third, technology. Some people may not understand the technology behind the applications or websites that provide mental health services. They may not know how to access video links or use their phone to connect to a provider, which can lead to an underlying session that they may not feel comfortable or comfortable with.
Patients also don’t want to see time wasted or wasted during the appointment due to technical struggles, and may prefer to see the provider in person to avoid the hassle of these situations.
Q. What improvements can be made to telehealth especially to treat mental health problems?
A. We can look at the current challenges of the teleospace space to find a way to improve the teleosity experience for everyone.
To begin with, the creation of wider Internet access allows telehealth to reach more people who do not currently have access to it. In fact, the Biden administration recently secured the commitments of 20 of the top Internet service providers to serve low-income households to reduce prices or increase speed.
It’s a big step in the right direction. Better cellular and internet speeds allow you to experience more mental telehealth through video, not over the phone, where mental health professionals can better assess their patient through verbal and nonverbal cues.
With all the advances and changes we have seen in technology over the last few decades, there is a lot to keep up with patients and providers. Education is key to ensuring that telehealth is maintained and continues to grow in its usefulness. Many providers are willing to learn new technologies, but they need to be trained by people who have a good understanding of these systems.
As technological advances set new standards for care, providers and patients need to be educated to keep up with these evolving standards. It is important for those implementing new systems to provide the appropriate educational providers that education providers need to learn technology, as well as to support patients.
Another thing to consider is how to help patients with disabilities through teleosity. There are laws in the U.S. to ensure equality in care for those with and without disabilities, so they should also be considered in telehealth situations, such as providing additional information or arranging longer appointment hours.
Sometimes additional support or changes are needed in the technology systems to help these patients as well. Telehealth systems must meet accessibility requirements and offer resources available in a variety of formats, such as audio recordings or large text sizes.