Telemedicine is a brand-new, progressive form of health care currently taking the country by storm. In the age of digital technology, where the internet has expanded into almost every conceivable industry, it makes sense that the gigantic health sector couldn’t be far behind. And in fact, it wasn’t far behind at all; it was actually way ahead of the curve. If you’re just hearing about it now, telemedicine might seem like a brand new initiative, but its inception actually dates back decades, to the 1960s. Back then, of course, there was no internet, but the fundamental ideas behind telemedicine remain the same today. Mental health is a big part of today’s health care industry and the discussions around it – much bigger than it was five decades ago. As telemedicine advances into a new era, the question remains: is telemedicine psychiatry as progressive as clinical telemedicine?
Initially, telemedicine got its name because it allowed patients to consult with doctors remotely, via telephones. The basis of the practise is still intact today, and telecommunications are still used to connect health care professionals with long-distance patients; however, in 2018, most of this is done via smartphone and other electronic devices like tablets and laptops, which have been successfully integrated into our professional and personal lives. Patients can now consult with doctors and specialists in their own time, no mater where they are in the world. If a patient has a worrying symptom that they want checked out straight away, all they need to do is pick up their phone, and within seconds they can be connected with a doctor and well on their way to easing their minds, or getting it checked out further if necessary.
The process is pretty clear-cut when it comes to physical afflictions, as there is usually one set, defined course for treatment. Telemedicine can also provide patients with a broader option of specialists from around the country, as opposed to being forced onto a waiting list for a local specialist you may or may not be fully confident with. But as with all aspects of health care, there are a different set of procedures when it comes to mental health. Psychiatry and the treatment of mental disorders are extremely hard to define, and unlike most physical conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment available for patients. So how exactly can telemedicine psychiatry help those in need of mental health treatment?
Well, one initiative that is seeing increasing use within the psychiatric community is the use of emotional support animals, or ESA for short. These are animals who function similarly to regular pets, and require no specific training for their role: being continually present as a source of comfort and companionship for their mentally afflicted owners. Studies have proven that the presence of an animal can help alleviate the most oppressive symptoms of common disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, autism, and bipolar disorder, with the treatment gaining serious traction within the last few years. To qualify for an ESA, the patient requires an emotional support animal letter, or ESA letter, from a verified medical professional, qualifying their condition and validating their pet as an emotional support animal. This crucial document then allows patients and their pets to avail of special laws like the Air Carrier Access Act (which allows ESAs on planes) and the Fair Housing Act (which allows ESAs to live in rented accommodation).
But how exactly does telemedicine psychiatry fit into the ESA initiative? Quite nicely, actually; through sites like Moosh, patients can apply for their ESA letter online, and be vetted and approved for an emotional support animal in a very short space of time. This is especially pertinent if a patient has crippling anxiety or overwhelming depression, and can’t face leaving the house for a long period of time. For patients like this, telemedicine is a lifeline, as they’re able to begin and conduct their treatment from the comfort of their own home, in their own time. The process of getting an ESA letter may seem intimidating and potentially probing; however, by utilizing telemedicine sites like Moosh, it can be a simple, straightforward procedure, leaving the patient with little to worry about.
You can also confer regularly with psychologists over Skype, FaceTime, or any other app that allows people to talk face-to-face. This provides patients with the benefit of convenient consultation with their mental health specialists, without sacrificing the intimacy of the conversation. Previously, neither psychologist or patient would be happy conversing over the phone; these days, with the help of telemedicine, they can go a step further while still availing of the benefits of digital technology. It’s clear from all these advances that telemedicine is having a huge effect on the health care industry, across all sectors. It’s making health care cheaper and more convenient for patients and doctors alike, and as it continues to ascend, it’s sure to advance both the physical and the psychological fields of medicine.