Telehealth and Mental Health–The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As both an individually licensed psychotherapist as well as a co-founder of an exciting national and international Telehealth Mental Health App, I feel I’m in a unique position to discuss Telehealth in its application towards Mental Health

Having used TeleHealth with a significant caseload of patients, I can safely say that yes! Telehealth works!
Telehealth has HUGE advantages, not only to patients but also to therapists as well. Let’s start with patients.

First, only 56.5% of mentally ill adults received ANY mental health treatment in the last year. Why? Most of them cannot afford it. But also, they can’t afford the time and effort to get to the doctor’s office–especially when they’re in rural, historically underserved areas.Driving, public transportation, traffic, parking, babysitters. It’s enough to make you crazy! On top of the issues that are driving you to therapy in the first place!

Lots of therapists aren’t fond of insurance company reimbursement rates. So they hold out for private paying clients at $150 to $250 an hour. What average person with mental health needs can afford that? No one except the rich and successful.

 But what if Therapists didn’t have office rental costs. Would they be able to work for a slightly lower rate and join the insurance panels? 

We’re at the highest suicide rate in history.Why is that?Loneliness, isolation combined with real-life stressors.

Enter Tele-Mental Health.
With Telehealth, as it expands and grows further, patients will be able to have 24/7 access to real-time providers.

Another great possibility for mental health access is that if providers are on a Telehealth network if your provider is not available, you may be able to talk to another provider online when in crisis. 

Yet another advantage, if you are on a private Therapist Telehealth Network, is that the therapist can record their notes within the system so that, should another therapist need to take over the case, electronic consents can easily be attained, and records can be made immediately available.

Ye another advantage–as Artificial Intelligence is helping Medical Doctors see patterns and pathologies that they are unable to assess with 100% accuracy, machine learning is helping to identify patterns that ensure even more accuracy than ever before in human history. So for example, your MD may not see an aberration on your Xray, a computer can compare that Xray with millions of other Xrays coded for previous diagnoses and identify the likelihood that YOUR Xray meets the same diagnostic criteria.

In the same way, Telehealth will allow therapists and patients who consent, to anonymously record facial patterns, skin tone, eye movement, voice tone, timbre, volume, speed, breath rate and more to identify the emotional and psychological issues and then provide solid advice to the clinician as to their diagnosis and their treatment protocol–ultimately improving the accuracy of patient care.

Another advantage–Privacy.. Just as people don’t want to be seen walking into their plastic surgeon’s office, many people want their therapy visits to remain highly private, even so far as walking into a therapist’s office.
But what are the current providers doing wrong with Telehealth?

A recent study of telehealth’s effect on behavioral health service has shown meaningful symptom reduction, with a 32 percent decrease in depression symptoms, a 31 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms and a 20 percent reduction in stress symptoms. (Teledoc) 

Do most insurances cover Telehealth. I’m happy to say, yes they do indeed! There are SOME limitations–there is no Federal agreement on one national telehealth law. Unfortunately, there is patchwork quilt of laws with every state creating their own laws.

Telehealth usually involves therapists sending the patient a orivate video link code and they join each other online. The difference, of course, is the subtleties that may not be caught on a low-resolution camera, or sounds that may not be picked up from a microphone. Of course, smells are missing, and there is probably a solid scientific explanation for why we might prefer a live body in the same room even if we aren’t touching one another. And too, the patient is sometimes missing the subtleties in the therapist’s demeanor or expression of empathy. As technology improves most of these will become negligible issues. 

Of course, what therapists love about it is the freedom to provide services from any secure location and the freedom to live in and move to areas where their patients may or may not reside. In short, it increases freedom, time, energy for both therapists and patients.

copyright 2019 Ross Grossman, MA, LMFT
Affinity Therapy Services


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