Telemedicine has the potential to transform the delivery of mental health care by allowing healthcare providers to connect with patients better and increase their flow. According to a report by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 43.8 million adults in the US (1 in 5 people), experience mental health illness every year. Many of these individuals may also be struggling with multiple chronic conditions, phobias, substance use disorders, and suicidal tendencies, and need specialized care from several providers.
Unfortunately, these needs are met with a national shortage of mental health providers, which results in delayed appointment times and missed consults. Many of these people go untreated leading to deterioration in mental health with serious consequences.
Video conferencing and remote monitoring technology can help alleviate the backlog in appointment schedules and provide mental health patients with faster and convenient services. It is saving both hospitals and patients thousands of dollars each year by making consultation with healthcare professionals available from anywhere. This has increasingly supported patient’s access to psychological services at the time they need it the most, without the potential barriers of having to travel to see a healthcare provider or counselor.
By making consultation with healthcare professionals available from anywhere, psychologists can improve continuity of care and follow-up between visits and establish an emotional bond and rapport with the patient in a more private setting. Patients feel more comfortable and safe when care is delivered in the privacy of their homes as they can avoid the perceived social stigma associated with seeking behavioral health support.
Through the virtual visit model, psychiatrists are able to reach more mental patients in distant locations with even shorter appointment times. Patients should plan ahead of their appointments with any relevant records and information, including prescriptions, and a list of questions to address.
Medicaid programs reimburse for some telepsychiatry services in 48 states. Medicare and several other private health insurance companies also cover telemedicine.
As adoption of the technology grows and consumers’ awareness increases, telemedicine companies need to ensure that the systems they provide allow greater operational efficiencies through appropriate reporting and scheduling options.