How Telehealth Changed Mental Healthcare for the Better
The way professionals and society treat mental illness has evolved significantly over its history. The first attempts at therapy started in the 1700s, while the first medication for mental illness did not arrive until the 1950s. Modern mental healthcare now involves many types of effective talk therapy and specialized medications.
While today’s treatments are effective and evidence-based, the evolution of mental healthcare is not over. Advancements in communication technology have enabled telehealth. With telehealth services, such as telepsychiatry and teletherapy, providers can reach people in underserved communities, help patients overcome barriers to care, and connect with other healthcare providers.
What is Telepsychiatry?
Telepsychiatry appointments use online meetings to connect patients with medical doctors who specialize in mental health treatment. Patients discuss their symptoms, and psychiatrists decide whether prescription medication is appropriate. If so, the provider can prescribe the medication and send it to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.
What is Teletherapy?
In teletherapy, patients connect with licensed therapists through secure online video conferencing. The therapist can use many of the same proven techniques as they would during in-person visits. This may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Many studies have looked into the efficacy of teletherapy and found that it is at least as effective as in-person therapy. For some people, teletherapy is better because it allows them to attend sessions with more regularity.
Improving Mental Health in Rural Areas
In many areas of the United States, there are fewer than one mental health provider per 30,000 people, which is a severe shortage. About 115 million people in country live in these regions, including some counties without even one mental health care provider. As you may expect, many of the areas with severe mental health care shortages are in rural areas, where medical infrastructure is sparse.
Even in rural regions of the country, most people have access to the internet. Using that access, telepsychiatry and teletherapy help bridge the gap in care. People who live in counties with few mental health resources can access care without long commutes. This is especially important for therapy, which requires patients to see their providers frequently. With a higher continuity of care and broader access, telehealth is bringing mental health care to underserved communities across the country.
Triumph Over Other Obstacles to Care
While a lack of qualified mental health care providers is one significant factor in keeping people from getting care, it’s not the only obstacle people must overcome. Regardless of geographic location, people face other barriers, such as:
- Stigma: Over the past few years, attitudes toward mental health care have dramatically shifted toward acceptance. However, the stigma against people who seek treatment still exists, and it may scare people away from getting treatment. Some people may fear being seen in the therapist’s office. Telehealth eliminates this fear and allows people to keep their treatments entirely secret if desired.
- Transportation Problems: Mental health care often involves patients seeing providers frequently, often in the middle of the day. It can be difficult for people to find the time and resources necessary to get to the clinic that often. Telehealth appointments allow patients to see providers from any private location with an internet connection.
- Differing Abilities: Some people live with mental, behavioral, or physical differences that make it difficult or impossible to leave home. Telehealth allows such people to receive care without the additional burden of leaving home.
Connecting Emergency Rooms to Mental Health Care
If someone you love is having a mental health crisis, one of the best things you can do is take them to an emergency room. There, doctors and nurses can ensure that your loved one is physically safe from harm, at least for a while. But then what?
Emergency care providers are expertly trained to intervene in physical health emergencies and keep people alive in a mental health crisis. However, they are not there to provide counseling or ongoing care. Furthermore, the shortage of mental health providers means that many emergency rooms do not have mental health care providers on call or in the building.
Telehealth is starting to fill in gaps here as well. One mental health provider can be on call for emergency rooms across the state. Emergency room providers can then connect to psychiatrists and therapists through telehealth when a patient is in need. The patient, providers, and loved ones can make a care plan for continuing treatment.
Though it is relatively new, telehealth services have already begun to fundamentally change mental health care in positive ways. If you’re ready to get the care you need through online or in-person appointments, be sure to contact us today.