Why Telehealth For Mental Health Care Is Working
Nearly 50 million Americans currently experience a mental illness of some kind
The last few years have seen great strides in telepsychiatry. It’s becoming the preferable mode of treatment for certain populations as well as benefiting the practice overall.
As of 2022, 19.86% of adults (nearly 50 million Americans) currently experience a mental illness of some kind. Of those, over half (56%) of adults with a mental illness received no treatment for their mental disorders in 2022. These stats are, in part, due to a long standing lack of access to psychiatric care and continued societal stigma towards receiving treatment.
The good news? Telepsychiatry is helping more patients receive treatment! This blog will cover how telehealth shapes mental health care, what’s currently working and its role in the future of behavioral health. Without further adieu, let’s get started!
Treating behavioral health with telepsychiatry
Prior to the Pandemic, telepsychiatry visits represented only 1% of outpatient care. At its pandemic peak, mental health and substance abuse care represented 40% of all outpatient visits.
Since then, we’ve seen a 1.2% increase in the number of adults receiving mental health treatment in the U.S., even as cases continue to rise annually.
At the same time, the number of mental health providers using telehealth services increased from 33% in 2020 to 50% in 2021, according to the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) 2021 COVID-19 Practitioner Survey of U.S. psychologists.
It’s important to note that the addition of telepsychiatry is not the sole cause of the increase in patient care (changes in societal views and stigma being others). However, it certainly plays a significant role in meeting the needs for mental health services.
Common telepsychiatry services:
Therapy (individual, group, and family therapy)
Diagnostic and cognitive treatments
Benefits to telepsychiatry:
Improved access to specialty care
Integrated behavioral health care and primary care
Continuity of care and follow-ups
Reduced barrier of stigma and fear
Patient privacy and confidentiality are equivalent to in-person care
Expanding access to mental health care
In the past, those located in rural areas had to travel several hours to receive primary and specialty medical care. This often led to populations of people opting out of routine check-ups, preventative procedures or seeking treatment at all. The introduction and boom of telehealth services the last few years has helped in closing that healthcare gap.
Mental health care professionals, however, took to the screens and invested in telehealth much faster than other practices. There are a few reasons for this:
1. A rare look into a patient's environment.
It was previously an uncommon opportunity to get to witness a patient's environment. It’s offered a look into behaviors that could help aid in diagnosis and treatment for mental health disorders. While observing body language and facial expressions can be more difficult with this type of visit, telehealth can unlock new observations and research.
2. Children react positively to telehealth.
A doctor's office can be overwhelming for kids. They often find the environment unfamiliar and may take some time to warm up. This can make finding a diagnosis and treatment plan more difficult. With telepsychiatry, providers are seeing an increase in interaction and comfortability with younger age groups.
“This younger generation has grown up with technology and they are comfortable with FaceTime. Teenagers especially like to offer a curated view of their room.” said Paige Lembeck, PhD, in an article for Yale Medicine.
3. Convenience is key.
In today’s modern age of infinite choices, convenience is key. Healthcare is not excluded from this idea. Telepsychiatry can offer less barriers to entry for people who are influenced by industry stigma, have anxiety about getting treatment, or face transportation issues. It can offer the appearance of being less of an “investment” white getting those who need care to make that first step.
In some populations, telehealth is preferable to in-person care
As mental health care providers navigated the world of telehealth, they found that certain populations may see higher success rates with virtual care.
These patient populations are:
Patients on the autism spectrum
Those with severe anxiety disorders
Those with physical limitations
Patients with significant geographical obstacles
Those populations are not the only ones seeing the benefits, though. The overall satisfaction of telepsychiatry is extremely high among most patients, psychiatrists and other professionals alike. Shining a brighter light on the practice of telepsychiatry and the stigma surrounding it.
Telepsychiatry’s role in the future of behavioral health
The role telepsychiatry is going to play in the future of behavioral health will be a big one. While the use of virtual care has dropped slightly from its pandemic peak, it opened new doors for both patients and providers.
Psychologists are now the mainstream media's most requested expert. As the mental health care industry catches up, telepsychiatry is going to be essential in maintaining relationships and removing barriers to patients.
It will continue to be utilized in emergency rooms for prompt care. About 1 in 8 visits involves a mental health and/or substance use condition, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Virtual access to behavioral health care in nursing homes will provide both ongoing psychiatric evaluation and care and emergency crisis intervention.
Speaking of the future of telehealth, we’d love to introduce OpenLoop!
You can think of OpenLoop as a telehealth company that powers other telehealth companies. We work with a variety of healthcare organizations seeking to launch or scale their virtual care services across the United States. What does it mean to partner with us? We...
Pair leading LCSWs, LISWs, ACSWs, PMHNPs, BCBAs, LPCs, LMHC, Psychologists and Psychiatrists with your patients
Offer continuity of care at every touchpoint
Deliver culturally competent practitioners who understand target populations
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Interested in what we can do for your organization? We’d love to connect and set up a time to chat. Get in touch here!