What is mental health telemedicine?Mental health telemedicine is the use of technology to provide otherwise in-person mental health services such as therapy and psychiatry. This type of service is used for a variety of different disorders including ADHD, anxiety, and depression among several others according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Using telemedicine for mental health is a way of providing health services by meeting a patient where they are at.
How does it work?Mental health telemedicine works to bring health services to the patient by eliminating travel and travel costs and saving providers’ and patients’ time. Telemedicine can be offered through video-conferencing, phone calls, secure messaging software, email, and other platforms. Meeting with mental health providers through telemedicine can help individuals seek help for psychiatry, counseling, and case management at any time, wherever they are. Payment online usually consists of credit or debit cards. Many insurances accept telehealth services through their plans, but it is imperative you find a provider that accepts your insurance if you wish to use it. Telemedicine platforms are also HIPAA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, compliant for your confidential treatment and health information security.
Diagnosis Through Telemedicine Mental Health Care
Studies have shown that there is a high rate of agreement between telemedicine and in-person diagnoses for mental health disorders (Nesbitt, 2012). This creates a dynamic that includes mostly open communication in various communication platforms.
The patient may use any platform they feel most comfortable with to share symptoms and feelings or emotions during an initial and any subsequent sessions with a mental health professional. Telemedicine in psychiatry mental health is useful for prescribing, refilling, and continuous check-ins for medication symptom reduction.
How long ago and under what circumstances did telemedicine for mental health begin to be used?
As far back as 1879, physicians and professional healthcare providers have entertained the idea of using other ways of communication for health services including telephones to limit in-person appointments and increase accessibility for certain individuals (Nesbitt, 2012).
There are records of providers using radio in the early 1900s and phones decades earlier in order to improve communication with patients and providers and this was just the start. As early as 1955, the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute was using closed-circuit television, or CCTV, to monitor patients (Digital Healthcare Research, AHRQ).
Even pharmacology is used through telemedicine as a way of assessing patients and keeping up with follow-up care. Over time, telemedicine mental health services have evolved in many ways and will continue to improve in the future.
Benefits of Telemedicine for Mental Health
There are several benefits of using telemedicine for mental health services. The following list includes seven benefits of using telehealth as a platform for receiving mental health care:
1. Expanded access
Telemedicine opens a wide range of doors for individuals who may otherwise be struggling to find the help they need and deserve. Bringing people in rural or remote areas to a tool that promotes connection expands access to millions of people. Individuals who do not have access to transportation or finances for travel are having an easier time connecting with health professionals.
2. Saving time
Using telemedicine as a primary source for seeking mental health services saves the patient and the provider time. It eliminates travel time and can result in shorter days for providers and faster visits for patients. A quick phone call or video chat follow-up for medication providers can be done without needing to put a halt on what a patient is doing for the day.
3. Shortened delays
Telemedicine reduces waiting time at offices making visits shorter and more efficient.
4. Eases stigma and promotes acceptance of treatment
Telemedicine gives individuals the freedom to choose the type of communication and setting making treatment easier and more comfortable for them.
5. Proven efficacy
Telemedicine has matched the percentage of correctly diagnosed disorders and then some, giving more people access to see specialists across the country and even worldwide.
6. Decreases fear for patients
Some individuals suffering from certain mental health issues, like paranoia, may find it easier to meet through a monitor. It also gives hope to individuals who may be unable to go places due to disability access.
7. Convenience in scheduling, billing, and prescribing
Telemedicine creates convenience in scheduling, billing, and prescribing because these tools are all in a single place making it easy and efficient for the patient and the provider.
Is Telemedicine for Mental Health Worth it?
What instances are ideal for telemedicine mental health care, compared to in-person?
There are a variety of reasons why telemedicine would be ideal including increased accessibility for individuals in rural or remote areas, and for clients who may struggle with leaving their houses. In-person visits are ideal for those who do not have access to the internet and who may find comfort in making connections through a distraction-free environment.
Individuals who suffer from ADHD, TBIs, and other neurological disorders may find it difficult to pay attention or use telehealth effectively for their needs. Telemedicine is a flexible way of providing services tailored to the patient’s needs.
Is mental health telemedicine here to stay?
Yes, telemedicine for mental health is here to stay. Though there are both patients and providers that value in-person visits, technology is bridging many gaps in care and continues to provide more access to opportunities for help and for jobs. Several providers at Yale Medicine agree that telemedicine is a valuable resource that promotes connectivity, especially for individuals who otherwise would not be in their office (MacMillan, 2021).
They also go on to say that as long as there is continuous training and education surrounding new developments in technology, many providers likely will not go back to all in-person sessions.