As you are probably aware, COVID-19 has upended countless aspects of our lives and put more stress on individuals than ever before. Mental health challenges ae increasing across the board, resulting in numerous people seeking therapy when none previously had. The recent pandemic has created more difficulties than ever, as people struggle to access appropriate mental health care while finding a therapist who will take their insurance and allow them to visit their offices.
Thankfully, modern technology has many answers. There have been some benefits from this challenging period in human history. One such example is the rise of Telehealth, which has enabled many individuals to see a therapist from the comfort of their own home.
Telehealth has proven to be a massive benefit for many, with numerous individuals taking advantage of its services to get the help they need. But is Telehealth right for you? Everyone has their mental health preferences, but the odds are good that Telehealth can work for you.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is formally defined as the ability to connect with your doctor or another healthcare professional without having to meet them in their office. This therapy method can take many forms, including phone conversations, email or text messaging, remote monitoring, or audio-video conferencing, which allows a doctor and a patient to have a live discussion and exchange information. Many services can be provided via Telehealth, with psychological therapy being one of the easiest methods of medical care that can be given through this medium.
Keep in mind that doctor-patient confidentiality - including compliance with HIPAA - must be maintained while Telehealth services are being provided. This means that information must remain confidential, and any electronic communications must remain secure. Doing so helps protect the patient's privacy and the confidentiality of the information shared during the therapy.
What Does the Research Say About Telehealth and Therapy?
The research has been robust, and it has also been positive. Multiple studies have made it clear that Telehealth provides real therapeutic benefits.
For example, a 2017 systematic review examined 156 different articles. The review found that Telemental healthcare can "provide effective and adaptable solutions" to individuals in distress, working to achieve many positive mental healthcare challenges. The study noted that there are technological barriers and broadband challenges that may work to the detriment of individuals seeking to receive treatment for mental illnesses, and as such, real barriers remained. However, many of these barriers were already collapsing, and this article was published nearly five years ago.
More recent articles have come to similar conclusions. A 2021 resource guide from SAMHSA found that Telehealth for mental health care effectively treated an array of disorders, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and more. It also found that Telehealth for mental health care could reduce costs typically associated with mental health care while reducing stigma and increasing access for individuals who faced typical barriers, such as transportation.
A September 2021 article from Yale Medicine also examined the issue and came to the same conclusions as above. This article noted that COVID-19 had made individuals more comfortable participating in activities like Telehealth, although older adults often had to rely on their kids for technological assistance. Still, the article reviewed research, spoke with patients, and got the opinion of medical practitioners. It found that therapy given during Telehealth was useful to patients.
What Are Other Benefits of Telehealth?
As noted above, much of the research about Telehealth thus far has been very positive, with information appearing to indicate that Telehealth can work very well for most people. However, there are other benefits besides its ability to help people suffering from mental health disorders. These include:
Telehealth has been found to reduce the number of no-shows or people who do not attend their therapy appointment. This has been particularly useful in the publicly-funded space, as these resources are particularly constrained.
The above point is related to the fact that Telehealth appointments are simply more convenient. Individuals can have a therapy session without ever rolling out of bed in the morning. In this sense, Telehealth reduces a significant barrier to treatment, as it makes it as easy as clicking a few buttons on the phone.
All of this also helps to serve as a stigma-reduction tool. Individuals no longer need to "fear" someone seeing them entering or exiting a therapy appointment, nor will they ever have to explain where they are or where they are going. They can simply have a therapy appointment from the comfort of their own home.
What Barriers Remain?
Insurance remains a challenge for Telehealth access in some states, albeit not all. Thankfully, 43 states and the District of Columbia require that both Medicaid and private payer insurance cover Telehealth visits. However, seven states do not require that private payer insurance companies cover Telehealth visits, which has created some coverage gaps. COVID has pushed many more states to cover Telehealth, and advocates in the seven states where private payers are not currently required to cover Telehealth visits are hopeful that this will change in the future.
There are also issues concerning Internet connectivity, mainly in rural or low-income areas. Areas without reliable internet connections may lack the ability to take full advantage of Telehealth options, and as such, they will not be able to participate. These individuals can drive to places with stronger Internet connections, but this removes one of the primary benefits of Telemedicine.
If you are in need of therapy and live in the Kalamazoo area, reach out today to Strong Therapy and Community Support. We continue to provide Teletherapy at no additional costs to our patients and have found it to be exceptionally useful to those in need. Don't wait another day or for your issues to reach a crisis point - call us at 269-978-8847 or visit our website for more information on how we can help you.