More than 43.8 million people in the United States suffer from mental illness issues every year. That means that approximately one in every five adults in this country experiences some sort of behavioral health crisis every year – and more than half of those individuals do not get the treatment they need. Luckily, huge changes are happening in the telemedicine world that can actually help improve access to treatment for mental illness. Read on to see how telemedicine is revolutionizing the treatment of mental health conditions.
Telepsychiatry is an offshoot of telemedicine that deals specifically with mental health, including psychiatric evaluations, therapy (individual, group, and family), patient education, and symptom and medication management. There are a variety of ways that telepsychiatry works – it can look like direct contact between doctors or therapists and their patients, or it can be virtual communication about treatment between an entire medical team. These forms of technology also work to ensure medical information is transferred safely to any appropriate parties for specific patients.
There are countless benefits to accessing telepsychiatry options. Here are a few major ones:
Patients only need a computer, internet access, and a webcam to get access to their mental health providers. This means that virtual access can help individuals who wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with providers for therapy or medication management.
Individuals who live in remote areas, have limited mobility, or are just simply too busy to make it to in-person appointments can access help from wherever is most convenient for them (like the comfort of their own home). Patients are also less likely to miss appointments because they’ll be able to schedule them for a time that works best, without having to worry about lining up transportation or assistance. Additionally, because of increased access, patients can consult with doctors, specialists, or therapists that are in any location – no matter how far away.
Customization of care
Telepsychiatry can help treatment teams come up with the perfect plan to help their patients, completely customized to what works best for that particular individual. Assessments, notes on progress, and symptom trackers can all help provide valuable data to mental health care providers.
Decrease in costs
Patients who use telemedicine methods can avoid costly transportation and any other additional fees that are tacked on when visiting a physician or therapist in person. People can also skip paying for childcare services or asking for time off work since appointments can be conducted at home.
Better health outcomes
Patients using telepsychiatry have been found to need less trips to the emergency room, can reduce delays in their treatment, and have better continuity of care because all follow-ups can be done virtually with their therapists or psychiatrists.
Because there’s still something of a stigma surrounding mental health issues, some people may feel apprehensive about seeking treatment. Telepsychiatry allows these people to get help all from the privacy of their own home. Some people may feel more relaxed and be more open to sharing their story if they’re in their own safe environment.
There are many telemedicine options for getting help for mental health conditions. An increasing number of people are using online counseling options to get treatment for their symptoms. They can reach out to virtual therapists or physicians who can provide guidance all through video chats. Another great benefit is that medication consultations can be conducted with psychiatrists virtually, so that they can monitor how their patients are doing with their prescriptions. This process allows psychiatrists to view progress and stay on top of any changes in symptoms.
Specifically for patients, advances in telemedicine have added other options that can help improve the treatment of symptoms. For example, online support groups for those suffering from mental illness are becoming increasingly popular. Moderated groups that offer supportive environments can be very helpful to people who are needing to make connections. With just a computer or smartphone, patients can log onto these sites and often find almost instant support. Another helpful option is for patients to use apps to track their symptoms and moods; this data can be critical for a psychiatrist or therapist to determine what in the treatment protocol is helping and what isn’t. People can also use apps to help remind them to take their medications. This can be valuable for individuals who often have trouble remembering to take their prescriptions at the appropriate time.
With advancements in technology and improvements in the world of telemedicine, there are many opportunities for people with mental health issues to receive the help they need. Now, even if patients live in remote areas without access to mental health professionals, or if they’re too uncomfortable addressing their problems out in the open, telepsychiatry can assist in getting them the proper treatment. By breaking down barriers and providing consistent (often life-saving) treatment, telemedicine is continuing to transform and improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions.