Written by Dr. Abhishek Allam
Telehealth is becoming more and more common. The COVID-19 pandemic normalized it further as patients sought medical care in ways that allowed them to continue to isolate. In particular, many researchers think that mental telehealth could be changing the future for those who struggle to access traditional psychiatric care.
What is Mental Telehealth?
Mental telehealth refers, broadly, to patients accessing mental health services remotely. This might be through a video call, phone call, cell phone app, or other means.
Mental telehealth is becoming even more accessible these days. While there are limitations to getting remote healthcare — such as doctors not being able to observe their patients closely — there are also some real benefits.
In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of mental telehealth as it becomes more and more widespread.
Mental Telehealth is Accessible to Everyone
Lack of access to healthcare is a problem throughout the United States, and mental healthcare is a whole other challenge. Costs are certainly prohibitive, with roughly one out of 10 people living without health insurance and many who do have insurance have a plan that doesn’t cover mental healthcare.
But physical access is another barrier that prevents people from seeking care. For those who live in rural areas, finding a counselor or psychiatrist might require driving to the nearest large town or city.
And many people face other barriers to getting to physical appointments. These include not owning a car, being disabled, being unable to take time off work, or not having childcare.
For these issues, mental telehealth is much more widely accessible. As long as the patient has internet access or phone service, they can talk to a doctor or therapist. This is one important way that mental telehealth addresses the discrepancies in mental health access in the US.
Mental Telehealth Lets You Seek Therapy in a Comfortable Environment
For many people, going to a therapy appointment can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for people who have social anxiety, agoraphobia, or other similar issues.
Mental telehealth lets people access healthcare in a comfortable environment, usually their own home. Feeling safe and comfortable in their physical space can help patients feel better about being vulnerable during counseling sessions, especially if they have special needs.
This can also help those who struggle to access mental healthcare because of stigma. Even though counseling is for everyone, some people feel uncomfortable with the thought of going to a therapist. Accessing mental healthcare in a remote setting can help them feel like they have privacy and security.
Mental Telehealth Offers Better Access to Mental Health Professionals
Although mental healthcare remains as important as ever, the industry is facing significant shortages. This trend is similar across other healthcare sectors in the United States, which means that it can be difficult for patients to find the services they need.
In an online setting, patients have access to a wider range of mental healthcare professionals. This includes doctors that specialize in certain conditions and disorders as well as those who offer flexible scheduling and payment plans.
Mental Telehealth Offers Faster Access to Services
Another barrier to mental healthcare is slow access to services. This is tied, in part, to the shortage of healthcare professionals. Another component is access, since patients may not live in the same area as the provider they need.
Remote appointments address these issues in several ways. First, telemedicine means that patients can access providers anywhere, not just those in their region. It also cuts back on appointment times, making scheduling faster and more open (such as evening or weekend appointments).
Many mental healthcare services let patients schedule an appointment for the same day, sometimes within minutes. This is a huge advantage over in-office appointments, which may need to be made months in advance.
Mental Telehealth Offers Continued Access to Care
The internet is a powerful tool, and that also applies to the world of medicine. By combining records, resources, and medical history on an online platform, mental healthcare professionals can provide continued access to care.
That means that patients will have consistent care between providers, even if they switch or are referred to a specialist or rehab. This ensures that they remain with the treatment and medication that works best for them, providing consistency across the board.
Switching between medications and care plans can be extremely stressful. Mental telehealth, which may happen on a single platform across providers, can streamline the process, ensuring that patients have consistent and effective care.
Remote Care is Ideal for Telehealth
Unlike physical medicine, which often requires doctors to examine patients in person, telehealth seems made for mental healthcare services. Talk therapy and other services don’t require a physical examination, and the quality of care does not suffer by virtue of patients and doctors meeting remotely.
In fact, studies have indicated that mental health services accessed via video conference were as effective at getting results as in-person appointments. With these statistics, it is not hard to see why telemedicine may be the future for mental healthcare!
TeleHealth in the Philippines and SeeYouDoc
Though most of Dr. Abhishek’s findings refer to the US health system, it still carries weight even in the Philippine setting. For most Filipinos, TeleHealth is still a fairly new experience and even as platforms like SeeYouDoc strives to broaden the scope and visibility, there will be some sectors and communities that will not be able to access it right away.
While it is important to be able to talk freely about mental health, we should always be careful about choosing the right sources and materials for information especially when sharing.
We suggest following these accounts to get started:
SeeYouDoc today is one of the leaders in innovative healthcare in the Philippines specializing in telemedicine services. We are vetted by the Department of Health and our partners include the Asian Institute of Management, MedChoice Pharma, Pivotal Peak, Kalesa Health among others.
Hhs.gov - New HHS Study Shows 63-Fold Increase in Medicare Telehealth Utilization During the Pandemic
CDC.gov - Access to Healthcare
Health.gov - Health Care Access and Quality
Written by Dr. Abhishek Allam
US Based Psychiatrist and Clinical Research Coordinator
Edited by Carlo Cadaoas and Patrick Gerolaga