The Current Landscape for Mental Health Telemedicine

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mental health is “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” The CDC linked worsening mental health conditions to stress caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic. With a growing demand for safe and convenient access to care, more patients and providers are turning to telemedicine.

Telemedicine platform, eVisit, released a study supporting the utilization of mental health telemedicine services:

  • 18.4% annual growth from 2014-2020
  • 90% of healthcare executives stated that they had begun incorporating telemedicine services within their organizations
  • 74% of all patients surveyed stated they would use telemedicine in some capacity

The Impact of COVID 19 on Mental Health

As COVID-19 continues to impose new challenges for patients and providers around the world, people are turning to alternative sources of mental health care. Studies in the UK have shown an increasing demand for mental health support. The Lancet, a world-renowned medical journal, found an 18% rise in the presence of mental distress in April 2020, just one month after the UK shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Similarly, many in the US are experiencing worsening mental health symptoms and need fast, effective care. The US Department of Veterans Affairs reported a 70% increase in VA Video Connect usage from February 2020 to March 2020 as a result of COVID-19. Other statistics that showed significant growth over the same period:

  • 280% increase in mental health telemedicine services over the phone
  • 200% increase in virtual mental health consultation at Vet Centers
  • 200% increase in virtual group therapy sessions

Want more data? Check out our post covering the 40+ Telemedicine Statistics to Know in 2020

Video Appointments for Mental Health Telemedicine

In an article by the Journal of Psychological Research on Cyberspace, we see a significant increase in patient engagement when using video communication during appointments. Connecting patients with their Mental Health providers in a way that closely emulates in-person visits can improve overall satisfaction and retention. This walk-through explains how to easily set up Dolby video and Stream Chat for an improved mental health telemedicine experience.

Virtual Mental Health providers with built-in chat services can easily provide 24/7 chat support to their patients and may include video services for scenarios that require visual support. Up to one in five patients would prefer virtual services over in-person emergency appointments. This flexibility can be the difference needed for some patients to overcome challenges related to mental health and offer providers more insight into these unique challenges.

HIPAA Compliance and Patient Privacy

Security is a top priority for telemedicine apps, and we know that any platform handling patient information must be HIPAA compliant. Most companies don’t have the time or resources to build in-house security systems, and nearly eighty-percent of telemedicine apps outsource their protection. This post shows how to make your app HIPAA-ready with Stream Chat and Virgil Security.

In addition to app security, patient privacy can be unintentionally compromised if data is stored together. Babylon Health, a UK-based telemedicine platform that provides telemedicine services to users around the world admitted to a “software error” after a patient posted on social media that they were able to see video recordings of roughly 50 other patient appointments.

The Cost of Mental Health Telemedicine

Health Insurance Coverage for Telemedicine

A variety of platforms offer telemedicine services related to mental health, and the costs associated with these services may vary as well. As telemedicine continues to show evidence of becoming a viable solution for many people around the world, health insurance providers are beginning to incorporate more coverage options for telemedicine within their current plans. You may want to check with your provider to see if your telemedicine services are covered.

Fees and Memberships for Telemedicine Platforms

Outside of traditional health insurance costs, many platforms focus solely on telemedicine, and some even employ their healthcare providers. Platforms like this often charge a recurring membership fee or per-visit fee depending on how the patient plans to use the services.

Telemedicine platforms like Teledoc and Sibly provide a variety of useful services for Mental Health support. According to Healthline.com, platforms like this charge “$90 to connect with a licensed therapist, while the first psychiatrist visit is $229 and ongoing visits are $90.” This does require scheduling and could be a lofty price to pay if someone needed quick and urgent support. For patients looking to schedule appointments regularly, platform BetterHelp charges $35 per week, which offers flexibility and less financial commitment.

Current Telemedicine Apps and Technology

Need some examples? We’ve listed several articles that dive into mental health and other telemedicine platforms for common use cases:

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