Though research has established the benefits of adding telehealth to your practice, many mental health providers are still hesitant. Some clinicians state that though video is often used, they are still restricted from seeing visual cues that are apparent during in-person visits. Others state that using telehealth is simply not appropriate for the illnesses they treat.
Regardless of the naysayers, telehealth is growing rapidly in the field of mental health and studies are showing that it is not only expanding access but also having equal efficacy. In 2014, 56.6% of adults with any mental illness (AMI) received no treatment. This shows a very slow improvement rate when compared to 59% in 2011. Aside from insurance being the major barrier to care, another significant contributing factor was found to be a perceived stigma or embarrassment about contacting a professional for treatment. Telehealth is proving to be a clear answer to this and many other obstacles that keep millions of Americans from receiving the treatment they need.
In a study done by the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare(1), where the use of telepsychiatry was used to treat patients with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), no group differences were found in clinical outcomes for patients treated with telehealth versus in-person visits. The satisfaction rates and drop-out ratings were also similar in the two groups. Another study performed by four doctors looking at the use of video conference for psychiatric and forensic evaluations found that telehealth offers the possibility of improved services to patients with limited access to care. The study confirmed that video evaluations would produce ratings comparable with those obtained by in-person interviews(2). The doctors went on to state that based on the expense and risk associated with transporting forensic psychiatric patients, using telehealth was especially attractive.
Telehealth is rapidly growing around the world and expected to reach almost $10 billion in the next few years. Adding this service to your mental health practice could not only improve the health outcomes of your patients but make your practice accessible to thousands of more people living with a mental disorder but not receiving care. In a four-year review of approximately 100,000 veterans enrolled in telemental health services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that the patients’ hospitalization utilization decreased by an average of 25% for both men and women of all ages(3). Based on this and similar studies, there is no denying that telehealth will be extremely beneficial to mental health providers and their patients.
- Backhaus, A., Agha, Z., Maglione, M. L., Repp, A., Ross, B., Zuest, D., … & Thorp, S. R. (2012). Videoconferencing psychotherapy: A systematic review. Psychological services, 9(2), 111.
- Lexcen, F. J., Hawk, G. L., Herrick, S., & Blank, M. B. (2006). Use of video conferencing for psychiatric and forensic evaluations. Psychiatric Services, 57(5), 713-715.
- Godleski, L., Darkins, A., & Peters, J. (2012). Outcomes of 98,609 US Department of Veterans Affairs patients enrolled in telemental health services, 2006–2010. Psychiatric services, 63(4), 383-385.