Meri Brick|10/1/2021|5 min read

Improving Mental Health Care Through Telehealth

Reducing the stigma and shortage of care


Mental health has been a large area of concern for years now and a hot topic in healthcare. The number of Americans being diagnosed with mental health disorders is rapidly increasing with no signs of slowing down. In fact, one in four adults suffer from a mental disorder and one in five adults have reported having an unmet need in mental health care in the United States. Not taking action and solving this crisis has negative effects not only on the individual but the US as a whole.

One possible solution to this crisis? Telehealth. Let’s dive into the challenges that are fueling the mental health crisis and how telehealth can overcome them and provide patients better access to care.

Challenges to receiving mental health treatment

Unfortunately, there have been major roadblocks that have stopped patients with mental illnesses from seeking help and treatment. Talking and finding solutions for these challenges can help alleviate the mental health crisis and get patients the help they need and deserve.

The fear and stigma surrounding mental health

A common reason why patients aren’t seeking treatment for their struggling mental health is fear and stigma. Stigma, as defined by Mayo Clinic relating to mental health, is “when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that is thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage”. Simplified down, it’s a negative stereotype.

Although the understanding and conversations around mental health have become more widely accepted, the stigma surrounding individuals with mental health is still there. Stigma can come in many different forms when talking about mental health:

  • Negative remarks about an individual's mental illness or treatment

  • Avoiding being around a struggling individual because they could be unstable or violent

  • An individual with a mental illness being viewed as ‘weak’, ‘crazy’ or ‘lazy’

These stigmas are causing many individuals to avoid seeking help. A study done by Psychological Medicine showed that the stereotype surrounding individuals with mental illness remains one of the top reasons people choose to not seek treatment.

Shortage of access and care

Approximately 122 million Americans, or 37% of the population, live in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals. As you can probably guess, the majority of these people live in rural parts of the country. This is a huge challenge for patients looking to receive mental health treatment or care in these areas.

The solution: Telehealth

A potential solution to overcome these challenges is telehealth. With the booming growth of virtual care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health industry saw a silver lining that could remove these challenges of patients seeking care. Let’s dive into the major benefits that telehealth can provide to mental health care and how it can remove those challenges we covered earlier.

Improve access for Americans

Anyone and everyone who has an internet connection can access telehealth services. In 2020, it was reported that over 90% of Americans have access to the internet and that number has only grown since then. This is a great option for patients who don’t have the means to leave their homes or like mentioned earlier, live in rural areas with no specialists nearby.

Telehealth is also a great option for patients who have busy schedules or have children. Taking appointments virtually removes the need to find childcare services or take time off work to fit in traveling to the doctor’s office.

Reduces the mental health professional shortage

As we discussed earlier, there is a large shortage of mental health professionals in the United States. Telehealth is helping shrink that gap because all the patients need is a stable internet connection and a device that they can use to connect to the provider.

Telehealth is transforming the mental health industry by allowing professionals to reach a new patient base. A mental health professional in an urban area can see a patient in a rural, remote area, where they may not have access to in-person treatment. Virtual care is allowing more patients to seek care, regardless of where they are located.

As a provider, it’s important to keep in mind that you can only treat patients in states that you are licensed in. Licensing has become a major dilemma for providers who are wanting to treat patients using telehealth. Although you can treat patients virtually anywhere, you still have to be licensed in the state that the patient is located in to treat them. If you want to expand your patient reach to more states, you will need to obtain licenses in those states. The good news is, if you get in with the right healthcare professional network, their licensing team will help you with that process.

Provides a comfortable setting for patients

Some patients avoid seeking mental health treatment due to the stigma and fear of being recognized going to appointments. Some also don’t have the transportation to get there. All around it can be very stressful going and getting to an appointment which can cause anxiety, only further worsening the patient’s mental health.

Telehealth can help eliminate this stress. Patients are able to be seen in the comfort of their own homes. The comfort that virtual care can provide patients makes them more willing to seek out care and get treated for their mental health conditions.

Easy communication and monitoring

Like we talked about earlier, telehealth is accessible for anyone with an internet connection. Mental health professionals who treat patients virtually are finding it easier and more convenient to communicate with their patients and monitor them more frequently.

With most telehealth platforms, professionals can send patients reminders, techniques to try for the week and resources and information all with the touch of a button. It makes communication between the patient and provider easy and efficient.

Future of telehealth

Let’s dive into the future of telehealth now that we’ve covered the benefits it can bring to the mental health industry. As we all know, telehealth boomed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In July 2021, telehealth use had stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic. Since then, virtual visits have leveled off a bit with a bright future outlook.

One area that is seeing major potential in the virtual care space and fits perfectly into what we are talking about, is psychiatry and psychotherapy. Mental health experts are estimating that in the next five years, 8 out of 10 mental health visits will happen virtually. The access, quality and cost advantages telehealth provides patients who are seeking mental health treatment is unbeatable.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “there is substantial evidence of the effectiveness of telepsychiatry and research has found satisfaction to be high among patients, psychiatrists and other professionals”.

With the benefits that telehealth brings to mental health care and the promising outlook on the future, it’s the perfect time to break into the telehealth space and treat patients seeking mental health care virtually.

All about OpenLoop

Are you a clinician looking for virtual mental health opportunities or opportunities in other specialties at top digital health companies? If so, you’ve come to the right blog! Join the top clinician network at OpenLoop.

The OpenLoop clinician network is comprised of the most skilled clinicians from across the United States. Over 6,500 healthcare professionals spanning many specialties have joined our network and filled shifts for our clients in all 50 states. On top of finding telehealth opportunities that match our clinician’s specialties, we personally match you with clients that align with your values and companies that YOU want to work with.

Some other perks of joining the OpenLoop network include...

  • Having complete control over your schedule

  • Working with leading digital health companies in the industry

  • Growing your knowledge of the telehealth industry and learning the ins and outs of virtual care

  • Seeing job details and payment information before you accept the position

Pretty sweet, right? Join the other 6,500 healthcare professionals who have put their trust in OpenLoop.

Are you a telehealth company searching for clinicians to fill shifts and serve your patients? We’d love to connect with you.

Partnering with us gives you access to our network of over 6,500 fully-vetted clinicians ready to serve your patient needs and deliver high-quality care. Not only do we give you access to our network, we match your organization with clinicians that align to your values, culture and patient needs for seamless continuity of care.

That’s not all! We take on all the back office challenges that come with launching and scaling telehealth services. We can take care of MSOs & PC Groups, multi-state licensing, certified credentialing and SO much more. Interested in learning more about our company and what we can do for you? Check out our website and grab a time to chat.