To improve quality of health and wellness, it is important to treat the person as a whole. Sometimes, in the process of treating physical illnesses/problems one forgets to pay attention to the most important facet of healthcare and treatment—the behavioral aspect. What we don’t realize is that ignoring mental health while diagnosing physical illnesses can lead to some terrible outcomes, both from money as well as the patient’s health perspective.
According to National Comorbidity Study, access to behavioral health treatment is limited. Apparently only 40% of the people with any behavioral disorder actually receive treatment. Out of this only 22% receive quality care from a mental health specialist. The remaining 12% receive care from a psychiatrist, which helps in the initial stages, but cannot really provide long-lasting solutions for intense behavioral disorders.
What we need is a strong link that provides the right all-round care. Access has been one of the main concerns when it comes to addressing behavioral discrepancies. With technology, especially in the healthcare sector now reaching new heights, people are finding it easier to connect and discuss their concerns. In fact, the concept of telehealth holds great promise in the advancement of mental health treatment.
Providing behavioral assessment via telephone, email, videoconferencing, etc. is now becoming an integral part and a well-known practice in the medical field. Telebehaviorial health, e-counseling, e-therapy, online therapy, cyber-counseling, or online counseling are enabling people to get the much needed help from psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, etc. from across the world. There are multiple reasons for this increasing acceptance and growth—it is convenient and enables one to get immediate treatment as soon as possible; insurance companies provide cover for the services; and people feel more comfortable discussing their behavioral concerns/issues via the above mentioned modes of communication as opposed to a face-to-face meeting.
A study indicated that these services significantly helped decrease hospitalization rates in rural areas with remote access. Another research paper showed that these services were extremely effective for low-income groups especially adults.
According to the “Top Health Industry Issues, 2016 report”, a lot of youngsters (72% aged between 18–44 years) are enthusiastic about using telehealth services. In fact, to address and encourage an environment of acceptance and well being, companies are prioritizing behavioral healthcare. As per a report by PWC, in October 2015 at the New York Stock Exchange, a CEO Mental Health Summit was convened to discuss strategies to support mental health awareness, acceptance, prevention and recovery in the workplace.
With demand for mental telehealth services growing, shortage of providers and the access being remote, this line of medicine is bound to continue its growth. More and more, doctors, payers, policymakers will look at this as a practical solution. While there definitely are a few legal and regulatory compliance’s that need to be worked with, this new technology will be the best way to connect general care with mental health specialists to improve the value and the quality of care provided.