Mental health has for many years carried, and continues to carry, a significant social stigma. This stigma prevents many people afflicted by behavioral health and mental health issues from seeking assistance. According to Corrigan and Watson, there are two types of stigma: Public stigma and Self stigma. As the names imply, one is the stigma of the public towards those with mental illness and the other is the stigma that an individual imposes upon themself due to the knowledge of their condition. Mental health illnesses that go untreated or under-treated can also quickly lead to social and economic issues, and the development of other diseases. It’s interesting to note that these issues affect not only patients but also those that are connected with them such as friends, family and co-workers.
Good news! Given that telemedicine (or telehealth) utilizes everyday devices such as mobile phones and computers; this avenue is being successfully employed in mental health. As an example, one of the largest users of telemedicine in the US is the VA System. Unfortunately many veterans suffer from mental health issues including but not limited to PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The VA, which has patients in all corners of the US, uses telemedicine to ensure they have access to the care they need.
8 ways Telemedicine impacts Mental Health:
- Access: Patients in any part of the country, or even the world; can access providers via video conference. This allows patients fast and easy access to mental health counselors at anytime, anywhere. Easy access could mean the difference between a patient being in crisis, or remaining stable.
- Location: Using telemedicine, patients can stay within their comfort zone, for example at their home or office. It allows providers to communicate with patients in a safe and relaxed environment, easing stress and worry.
- Provider safety: Telemedicine sessions are conducted remotely, so the provider and patient are not at the same location. From this perspective, the provider is able to counsel the patient and, if necessary, reach out to emergency services for additional assistance.
- Cost: Since telemedicine appointments occur over the computer or phone via video chat, there are significant cost savings for both the provider and the patient. No travel costs are incurred and the provider can save on space by not needing a waiting room or consultation room.
- Record keeping: Many telemedicine visits have the option to be recorded and as such a transcript of the visit can be available for record keeping. Transcripts can replace the bulk of a provider’s notes which can lead to significant time savings.
- Consults: Telemedicine recordings can be shared with other providers if needed, leading to more effective diagnosis and treatment.
- Improved Outcomes: According to an article by Versel (2012), Dr. Yellowless states, “People are often more honest on computers than face-to-face. If you want to ask a difficult question, it can be better to do it on a computer, compared with being face-to-face with paper and pencil.” The belief is that the use of telemedicine can improve therapy or be more therapeutic due to patients feeling more comfortable or safer to share information.
- Reducing no-show rates: The ease and convenience of telemedicine makes both the provider and patient more efficient with their time. No longer are things like inclement weather, transportation or getting a baby sitter an issue.
The treatment of mental health illnesses is different to that of traditional medicine. Diagnosis and treatment centers largely around verbal testing and counseling, with most mental health counselors seeing their patients on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly. Telemedicine also allows for greater convenience, allowing visits to occur in a safe location for both individuals and counselors, and it can be easily added to their practice at minimal cost. An inexpensive investment with the potential for increased profit and improved outcomes.
The ideal telemedicine solution should be super-efficient, seamless and mobile for both mental health counselors and their patients. Learn more.