As the pandemic surged, many non-COVID patients opted to stay home to avoid the risk of infection. Here, technology stepped in to help – and telemedicine, the virtual disbursement of healthcare services, skyrocketed in popularity. In fact, health workers in more than half of the countries surveyed by the World Health Organization reported using it to boost the reach of their services.
Telemedicine has also secured itself a spot in the post-COVID world, where it’s expected to cater to cases that don’t necessarily require direct face-to-face interactions with healthcare professionals. In particular, experts believe that it’s poised to change the face of mental health services for the better. Here’s why.
It’s more accessible
A 2020 review published in Health & Social Care found that barriers to accessible mental health services exist in every country, regardless of income status. It’s particularly harder for people with mobility-related disabilities, live in rural areas, or have hectic schedules to physically visit psychiatrists. Telemedicine bridges the gap by merely requiring users to have a device with an Internet connection.
One needs to simply log onto a video call and conduct business as usual. Sessions can also be held at any hour convenient to both patient and psychiatrist, making it easier than ever for patients to seek help – and for psychiatrists to help them. For example, if you can only make time for a call after your kids are asleep, you’ll still be able to get the treatment you need.
It caters to a wider patient base
With telemedicine making mental health services more accessible, professionals will then be able to cater to more kinds of patients. Having grown up around modern technology, pediatric patients have adapted particularly well to the virtual setting. Further, since most mental health services don’t require close physical interaction, telemedicine for mental health is more flexible and can treat a wider variety of conditions.
Aside from helping those with more prevalent mental health illnesses like depression and anxiety, professionals can use telemedicine platforms hand-in-hand with physical check-ups, and in collaboration with other specialists. This can facilitate the treatment of those with mental illnesses in the context of chronic diseases like cancer or ALS. A study published in JMIR Health even found that clinical users preferred telemedicine in treating substance abuse.
It protects patient rights
One common concern is if telemedicine adequately protects patients’ medical information. Fortunately, health resource SymptomFind notes that many platforms comply with HIPAA provisions. Take Dr. Chrono, the first electronic health records (EHR) service to enter the App Store.
Since it was founded in 2009, Dr. Chrono has been voted the best EHR platform by doctors and one of the top 20 best software by mental health providers. Here on mHealth Spot, we’ve even written about services like Express Scripts and Cigna Health today, which use Amazon’s Alexa to further enhance patients’ user experience.
Telemedicine platforms still give psychiatrists the information they need to treat patients effectively. This is because multiple features make up for some of the observations lost in translation via video call.
For example, built-in decision support systems can help psychiatrists make diagnoses and prescribe treatments. Meanwhile, if a patient chooses to closely monitor their condition with wearables – such as skin patches that monitor stress levels – psychiatrists can reactively prevent or treat possible mental health crises.
Partaking in telemedicine consultations is entirely a patient’s own choice. After all, telemedicine won’t fit every patient. The revolutionary thing about it is that it offers an alternative to traditional treatment, making effective mental health services more accessible to all.