In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare system in the US has changed. More and more, people are seeking out telemedicine services versus the traditional brick and mortar physician’s office. This trend also includes telemental health services as well. So what are the advantages of these services and how are they growing to meet the need?
The COVID-19 pandemic definitely thrust the use of telemedicine forward but many health care providers have been using this type of service for years. What the pandemic did do is encourage patients’ use of the telehealth services already in place. Telehealth is defined as “the practice of communicating electronically with a physician, typically via telephone or video chat.” While our hospitals and doctors’ offices have been overcrowded with very sick COVID-19 patients, use of telemedicine has allowed the burden felt in these locations to be lessened. Patients call in for routine exams and are many times seen and treated faster than if they came in to the physical office location.
Advantages to Telehealth Services
According to a survey by FAIR Health, there has been a 8,336% increase nationally in the use of telehealth from April 2019 to April 2020. Advantages of this increase and use include:
- Enabling patients to follow shelter-in-place restrictions by staying home and away from hospitals, except for emergencies
- Minimizing risk to health care workers and patients by limiting exposure to the coronavirus and other diseases
- Facilitating services for chronic patient monitoring, follow-up visits, therapy appointments and post-operative care
- Employees see the offering of telemedicine benefits as a huge priority in examining employment options
Advantages to Telemental Health Services
Like Telehealth services, use of Telemental Health services have also increased this year. A recent mental health survey says that 7 in 10 employees cite the COVID-19 pandemic as being the most stressful time in their careers. Caring for children who are out of school, caring for loved ones, financial issues, and stress from job changes are some of the issues that employees are facing. Business owners see the benefit of telemental health as their employees’ access these services in higher numbers. High levels of stress have been known to result in lower productivity, lower morale, and higher absenteeism. Advantages for telemental health include:
- The provision of telemental health services to patients living in rural and under-served areas has significantly reduced psychiatric hospitalization rates.
- Low-income, homebound seniors experienced longer lasting effects of telemental health than those who received in-person mental health services.
- Mental health providers rarely have to perform any physical services on their patients, so telemental health is more plausible than other types of telehealth services.
- There is little or no difference in patient satisfaction with telemental health when compared with face-to-face mental health consultations.
- Although mental health professionals are in short supply, mobile devices are not.
There are some significant advantages to the use of telemedicine services. Zywave explains, “Virtual healthcare is emerging as a viable solution to help lessen the burden on healthcare facilities and staff while still providing individuals with the care they need.” Tele-services also reach more of the under-served population both for health care and mental health care. As consumers gain confidence in virtual living, the call for telemedicine will also grow.