Every year, millions of Americans suffer from a mental illness. Anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder – they are much more prevalent than you might think. And the rates of mental illness and suicide are continuing to rise. Unfortunately, more than half of adults with a mental illness do not get care. The current options are too inconvenient and too expensive.
Patients need an alternative model that delivers more convenient and cost-effective care. Telepsychiatry is one of these solutions. Telepsychiatry enables patients to have virtual visits with mental health professionals. It allows patients to access care from the comfort of their own home, making it easier and cheaper than ever to get psychiatric treatment.
Why do we need telepsychiatry?
Patients often forego the care they need due to inconvenient appointments, cost of care, and logistical difficulties. But the consequences of lack of treatment are severe.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has revealed many startling statistics on the consequences of mental illness:
• Adults in the US with a serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others
• More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
• People with mental health illnesses are more likely to end up homeless, in jail, or in the hospital
• An estimated 18 to 22 veterans die by suicide each day
Clearly, something needs to change. Patients need more options for mental health care.
How does telepsychiatry help?
Telepsychiatry is more convenient and cheaper than traditional in-person care. This improves access and utilization of mental and behavioral health care services, while making patients more engaged.
More Convenient Care
Many groups who need mental health care struggle with the logistics of appointments. This includes people in rural or remote areas, people without cars, people who struggle to leave their home, and children.
But by using telepsychiatry, many of these groups can attend a virtual appointment. Even people without technology in their own home may be able to use a school or library, for example.
It doesn’t just help these groups, however. A lot of patients are physically able to get to appointments, but cannot find time in their busy schedules. By providing care when and where they need it, these patients will find it easier to take care of their mental health.
Mental health care is expensive. Approximately 50% of adults with a mental illness who reported an unmet need for care cited “cost or lack of insurance coverage” as the reason.
Studies have shown that telepsychiatry is cheaper than in-person care. This is mainly due to improved use of provider time by reducing transition time as well as fewer overhead costs for the provider. These costs can be passed on to the patients.
There are also new on-demand telepsychiatry solutions that operate outside of traditional health insurance. These options may be cheaper for patients, especially those with limited insurance coverage for mental health care needs.
One of the most exciting benefits of telepsychiatry is how it is driving innovation in the mental health care space. Providers are moving beyond one-on-one consultations to flexible platforms that meet a wider range of needs.
There are platforms that provide educational modules, CBT practice tools, and logs and journals, for example, that patients can use themselves. Or there is on-demand access to a mental health professional for someone that may just need a quick check-in. These innovations remove the barriers to care and meet patients wherever they are in their mental health care journey. Over time, this could lead to earlier intervention and treatment and better mental health outcomes.
Improved Access = Better Outcomes
Studies have shown that telepsychiatry has the same, or better, outcomes than traditional in-person care. But often, what telepsychiatry is really competing against is no care at all.
Mental health problems are linked with so many negative outcomes: early death and disability, jail and prison time, substance abuse, homelessness, and reduced quality of life. That is why treating these disorders is actually cost-effective for society: for every dollar spent on mental health care, there is $2 to $10 in future savings.
By growing telepsychiatry, access to care will improve for so many groups who have forgone care in the past. And that means better outcomes for individuals and society.