5 Benefits of Telehealth Technology for Mental Health Services
Today, the mental health crisis is a global problem, as the number of people grappling with mental health disorders continues to rise. As the World Health Organization (WHO) found out, more than 280 million around the world suffer from depression, while almost 30% of adults are affected by anxiety disorders at some stage during their lifetime. COVID-19 has aggravated the issue even further, as the widespread fear, uncertainty, and social isolation have taken a toll on people’s mental health.
The consequences of mental health problems extend beyond the affected individuals, impacting families, communities, and economies at large. Mental health disorders can lead to high rates of disability, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare costs. In fact, the global economy experiences an annual loss of around $1 trillion per year in productivity solely as a result of depression and anxiety.
Telehealth: Technology to the rescue
In response to the growing crisis, healthcare institutions and providers are adopting innovative solutions like telehealth technology. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is the use of communication technologies to provide and support healthcare services remotely. By leveraging video conferencing and messaging, store and forward systems, remote patient monitoring solutions, and mHealth applications, telehealth allows healthcare professionals to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients with no need for an in-person appointment.
The pandemic has definitely propelled telehealth solutions into the mainstream — in April 2020, more than 32% of visits took place through telehealth. Since that initial surge, telehealth usage has stabilized at the level of 13-17% among all medical specialties, according to McKinsey. And among these specialties, psychiatry demonstrates the highest telehealth usage rate (50%).
Indeed, telehealth technology has the potential to redefine mental health services due to its ability to overcome barriers and address unique challenges. In this article, we will explore the top 5 benefits of telehealth technology for mental care.
1. Increased access to care
Telehealth solutions facilitate connections between patients and mental health professionals via secure video conferencing and alternative communication methods, effectively eliminating the necessity for in-person appointments. This is particularly important for remote and rural regions that often lack qualified mental health providers.
In addition to bridging geographical gaps, telehealth can open doors to more accessible care for people with disabilities, mobility issues or limited transportation options. Without the added stress of dealing with accessibility barriers or unfamiliar settings, patients can better focus on therapy.
2. Reduced stigma surrounding mental illness
Mental health stigma refers to the negative attitudes, notions, and stereotypes that involve mental health conditions and the individuals who suffer from them. This stigma can materialize in different forms, such as discrimination, social isolation, and bias against people facing mental health challenges.
That’s the reason why many patients are reluctant to seek treatment if it means in-person visits. The anonymity offered by a virtual setting can help diminish the stigma and motivate patients to be more open about their problems with healthcare providers. Coupled with the convenience of scheduling appointments, telehealth technology empowers patients to take a more proactive role in managing their mental health.
3. Lower total cost of care
Along with the high quality of care anchored in a personalized approach and better patient engagement, telehealth appears to be a more cost-effective option that can reduce the economic burden on the healthcare system. A study carried out by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that cost savings per one telemedicine visit could be between $19 and $121.
There are several factors that contribute to this cost-efficiency — reduced travel expenses, decreased rates of no-shows, as well as much lower overhead costs associated with maintaining a physical office space. As a result, telehealth can be a financially sustainable option for many mental health professionals, particularly those working in smaller practices or serving rural communities.
However, the impact of timely and accessible mental healthcare services goes much further. If a patient is able to get help before problems escalate, it can potentially reduce the need for more costly emergency care and hospitalizations, further contributing to the overall cost savings for both patients and healthcare systems.
4. Improved continuum of care
By removing geographical barriers and scheduling constraints, telehealth technology enables a more effective continuum of care. For instance, in contrast to in-person care where a provider might schedule a follow-up appointment after one month, telehealth allows providers the flexibility to set follow-ups within a day or a week to closely monitor changes in symptoms.
Furthermore, telehealth tools support remote monitoring and assessments, which allows healthcare professionals to track a patient’s progress, gather valuable data on their symptoms, and adjust treatment plans accordingly. This ongoing feedback loop encourages a dynamic approach to mental health care that can be fine-tuned in real time based on patients’ evolving needs.
5. Innovation and flexibility in treatment modalities
Telehealth has also expanded the range of treatment modalities available to mental care providers, enabling them to create unique therapeutic experiences that resonate with patients. The integration of digital tools such as mHealth apps, remote patient monitoring solutions, self-guided therapy programs, and online support groups, allows healthcare professionals to develop more effective treatment strategies.
Additionally, telehealth platforms facilitate access to online support groups and communities, where patients can connect with others who share similar experiences, exchange insights, and foster a sense of belonging. This flexibility can help patients receive the most suitable care possible, contributing to better outcomes and improved well-being.
Telehealth technology is reshaping mental health care by offering a range of benefits that cater to the unique needs of patients and providers alike. From increased access to care and enhanced patient engagement to reduced economic burden and improved continuity and coordination of care, telehealth is helping to bridge gaps in mental health care delivery. By leveraging the power of technology, mental healthcare providers can reach more patients in need, foster better outcomes, and contribute to a more inclusive and stigma-free society.
At Kanda, we help digital health innovators and established healthcare organizations build exceptional healthcare products that meet the needs of patients and providers. As a trusted development partner, we bring to the table our expertise in HIPAA-compliant healthcare solutions and mHealth apps, as well as extensive domain knowledge and a solid background in cybersecurity.
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