Though it used to be something that people didn’t talk openly about, treatment for mental health has become more and more common. And that’s great news. However, it has become difficult for all patients to find qualified doctors — and difficult to get insurance to cover it. But telemedicine may be the new wave of therapy, and it could make mental health care more accessible to all. Telemedicine is when doctors provide care via phone, video chat, and text. More and more providers are adding these services, and more and more states are requiring insurers to cover those services.
Mental health care may be one service that could benefit most by an increase in telemedicine.
According to a recent survey by the National Business Group of Health cited by Money Magazine, all large employers will offer access to telemedicine for employees in the next four years. Also, UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest insurer, announced that it will offer “virtual physician visits.”
Virtual therapy could benefit mental health patients, because therapy doesn’t usually require doctors to do any physical examination or tests. Patients could simply video chat with their therapist, which could make mental health treatment more accessible. Patients and doctors could work around their schedules, and it would eliminate difficulties like the distance to a therapist’s office.
He added that it can be especially beneficial for those who have qualms about therapy and don’t want to be seen going. Or those who don’t have a therapist nearby. And it hasn’t been shown to be any less effective than in-person care.
Access is one of the key issues that people run into when seeking a therapist.
According to Money Magazine, approximately 103 million Americans live in areas without much access to mental health services. That means 63% of Americans don’t have easy access to a qualified mental health professional. But if your doctor is only a Skype chat away, you could be hundreds of miles apart and still have a therapy session.
That kind of access could hugely improve the lives of many, because mental health is SO important. Insurers are still determining if the costs of telemedicine will be comparable to those of in-person treatments. But this new trend could be huge for those who want or need therapy. Also, successful therapy isn’t just about finding A doctor, but finding THE RIGHT doctor. So telemedicine could increase the pool of available doctors, so we can all find a good fit.
Money Magazine notes that sometimes in-person treatment is more effective, because patients feel more accountable.
The magazine suggests that patients take a hard look at themselves. If you don’t follow your doctor’s orders as consistently because you only see them via video chat, then maybe consider in-person therapy if you can. Because the effectiveness of telemedicine depends on both the patient and the doctor.