Mental health problems are often left untreated, even undiagnosed, due to the stigmas attached to them. For patients, it is difficult to seek help and talk about their issues even with medical professionals. Telemedicine can provide a convenient channel of communication for such patients.
It is worth noting that mental illness is neither rare nor untreatable. Roughly 43 million people in the US suffer from some kind of mental illness. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of mental health professionals in the country and many patients are unable to get the help they require. While we need more medical health professionals, Telemedicine can play a vital role in bridging the gap we have right now.
Telemedicine has the potential to transform mental health care to a great extent. Today, we will explore the possibilities it holds for mental health professionals and patients.
The Benefits of Telemedicine for Mental Health Patients
Mental health care has many inherent problems that can be effectively catered by the inherent potential of telemedicine. Telemedicine is healthcare provided via the web- or mobile-enabled software. Although virtual, these sessions are conducted in a secure, HIPAA-compliant environment. Many would argue that virtual sessions may not be as effective as being physically present in a room with a healthcare professional.
A More Comfortable Environment for the Patients
For a large group of patients, in-person conversations can cause severe anxiety. They are unable to open up in such settings. Technology provides a more comfortable setting where they can have a face-to-face session with a professional without the overwhelming anxiety. When patients are more comfortable opening up, health specialists find it easier to make an emotional connection with the patient.
Private Sessions without the Fear of Stigmas
Mental health stigmas play a vital role in keeping patients away from professional help. Many patients keep their sufferings to themselves because they don’t want to visit a mental health clinic. With telemedicine, they can seek help in complete privacy and confidentiality. They can talk to a professional without worrying about being stigmatized.
Quick and Convenient Access to Instant Healthcare
There are many mental health problems that involve episodic attacks. Sometimes patients need instant health. A typical session with a healthcare professional involves a lot of waiting time. From booking an appointment to driving all the way to the clinic, there are a lot of factors that will delay care when needed. With telemedicine, patients can get help faster. It even allows professionals to distribute their time better among their patients.
Effective Mental Healthcare for Everyone
One of the biggest advantages of telemedicine is that it allows professionals to reach more patients, even the ones residing in remote areas. Even in this age, people in rural areas are unable to get appropriate mental or behavioral healthcare due to lack of awareness and because of the unavailability of mental health professionals. With telemedicine, distance and location of the patient is no longer a constraint. Professionals can spread awareness in far-flung areas and play a key role in providing care to those who are unable to visit clinics.
Examples of Practical Use of Telemedicine by Mental and Behavioral Healthcare Professionals
The revolution has already begun. There are many healthcare professionals who are already utilizing technology offered by the top telehealth companies to extend their outreach and play a bigger role in providing care.
A board-certified psychiatrist was able to extend care to around 500 more visits. While she was able to help more patient, she also reported a drastic increase in her earning. Mental healthcare professionals were able to provide help to heroin and opioid addicts in rural areas of Georgia.
Recently, military psychologists used telemedicine to offer therapy to army personnel serving in other countries such as Guam and Japan. It is not uncommon for military personals to suffer from psychological disorders and mental illnesses due to the traumatic experiences they go through. PSTD and depression are just two of the many mental health diseases suffered by soldiers who have served in a war zone.
Telemedicine is already transforming mental health care by solving some common issues that prevent patients from seeking timely help. While we do need more mental health professionals, we also need each professional to utilize modern technology to reach more patients.