Not long ago, the idea of receiving health care through a screen seemed overly futuristic. Today, this has not only become commonplace but preferable for certain medical visits, including mental health care.
Mental healthcare providers say that offering care via telemedicine (real-time visits through mobile devices like tablets, smartphones, or computers with video and audio) has been crucial during pandemic times and often advantageous, even as many clinicians are again paying for in-person visits.
Normally, there are benefits and drawbacks – and it isn’t ideal for every situation or patient – but many clinicians and patients are content, although the number of mental or neurological disorders is spiking in some countries.
In the U.S. alone, around 1 in 5 adults have reported having unmet needs regarding mental health care, totaling more than nine million people. Mental health, as it seems, is a massively neglected issue with an adverse effect on individuals and society as a whole.
Adding other societal issues like the opioid pandemic, the demand for mental health care and addiction treatment are ballooning, especially in rural areas where these challenges are widespread and access is limited.
Why prevents americans from receiving mental health treatment?
There are several obstacles that prevent people with mental health illnesses from seeking help.
Stigma and fear
One common reason why patients in immediate need of mental care do not receive treatment is fear and stigma. They simply fear shame associated with acknowledging mental illness and seeking out the help of an expert. While mental health is growing more widely accepted and understood, the stigma persists, especially in locations where mental health education may be lacking.
Over 6% of individuals struggling with a mental health disorder do not seek professional help, and recent findings show that 80% of adults believe mental health illness treatment is effective, but only 35% believe that people are sympathetic and caring towards individuals with a mental disease. From what we know, one in five Americans have a mental health illness, but only 30% of them seek out treatment.
Shortage of care and access
More than 111 million Americans live in areas reported having a ‘mental health professional shortage’. More than half of the counties in the U.S don’t have psychiatric help.
Globally speaking, more than 40% of states do not have a mental health policy, 30% lack a mental health program of any kind, and 25% don’t even have regulations for mental health.
Telehealth has been around since the 1990s but has recently gained traction. In Australia, the government has revealed that telehealth will become a permanent feature of the public mental health care system, including supporting access to services from professionals like psychologists.
Telehealth has changed mental healthcare for the better
While modern mental health treatments are evidence-based and as effective as they can be, the evolution of mental healthcare is not over. Developments in communication tech have enabled telehealth. With telehealth services such as teletherapy and telepsychiatry, clinicians can connect with other healthcare professionals, reach patients in underserved communities, and help others overcome barriers to care.
A boon in terms of financial accessibility
The US currently faces a severe psychiatrist shortage, according to research. Finding a trustworthy psychiatrist can be financially burdensome for many people, even those outside of underserved rural places. Health insurance policy for telepsychiatry can vary from provider to provider, from plan to plan, and there are different costs involved that insurance will not cover.
For instance, psychiatric care involves travel costs, translating in hours on the road, or even plane trips to visit a specialist. If you need to receive care over several days, this will weigh heavily on your finances. Delays, bad weather, and other disruptions can cause further inconveniences that may or not impact your treatment.
Not to mention, traveling for psychiatric care may require days off from work, which places an even greater level of stress on families in need. This implies added childcare costs for those at home and loss of income.
Telepsychiatry works wonders for those battling a mental illness and financial instability. Subspecialists no longer have to travel to multiple households in one day. Instead, they can conduct all of their business from the office or home and choose their own hours.
Patients no longer need to choose between their own mental health and finance. Virtual mental care sessions can be done in the comfort of a home or in a primary care provider’s office. Patients can rest assured about their appointments, too, since all psychiatric appointments can be made outside of normal business hours, ensuring that they do not have to take days off for their sessions.
Offers significant returns on investment
For mental health providers, integrating telepsychiatry presents a considerable return on investment. Merged with emergency departments, this technology can provide more effective connectivity without outpatient mental health services. It can help close referral loops between E.R. and other departments and also reduce transportation costs in emergency departments.
In specialty clinics and primary care clinics, telepsychiatry could offer significant cost savings to delivery systems and medical groups while enhancing the health status of patients.
Ample evidence shows that telehealth in mental health care works. Telepsychiatry alone has led to outcomes that are equal to in-person care in terms of treatment effectiveness, diagnostics accuracy, and overall quality of care.
According to research, overall experiences with telepsychiatry have been good among all age groups. Kids, adolescents, and adults who have received consultation and treatment are content by the results, suggesting that telepsychiatry may be preferred by or more effective than in-person care.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.