Written By: Aaliyah Khan
In a time where everyone’s mental health seems to be suffering, access to in-person therapy is at an all-time low. The pandemic has caused acute stress and anxiety to anyone in its path. The physical and social effects of COVID-19 have resulted in weak mental health and stability amongst the entire population. In response, a newer technology seems to have taken the stage – telehealth. Will telemental health replace therapists’ offices? And, more importantly, does it work?
What is Telehealth?
So, what is telehealth? In a nutshell, telehealth refers to any form of healthcare provided remotely, through online services or video chats. Physiotherapy, physical exams, and psychiatry are among some that have moved to a virtual space over the past year. Telemental health in specific combines video calls with apps and platforms where patients can actively update their psychiatrist and even private message them in an emergency.
There are three main deliveries of telehealth:
- Synchronous. This type of care refers to physicians speaking to patients live, or in real-time.
- Asynchronous. When patients record factors and symptoms independently. They then share this information at a later date.
- Remote Patient Monitoring. This refers to physicians receiving specific statistics, such as weight, or blood pressure levels, to monitor the patient’s overall health
To summarize, telemental health aims to provide care that can rival that of a physician’s office.
Pros of Virtual Care:
The benefits of telemental health, or telehealth in general, are plenty. To list a few:
- Increased Patient Activity. Given the ability to log everything from moods to water intake, psychiatrists can get a clear view into the ups and downs of their patients.
- Access to Services. The most important benefit in telehealth roots from accessibility. Knocking down geographical barriers, this method of healthcare makes getting care easier than ever.
- Consumer- Based Care. Telehealth provides the opportunity for medical professionals to start their own business models online. This allows them to move forward without the obstacles that come with owning an office. Additionally, this usually leads to more personalized and flexible care for each patient.
Cons of Virtual Care:
- Data at Risk. As with anything on the internet, there is always a risk that personal information could be at risk. This could be especially concerning, as the information is extremely private and/or sensitive to the patient.
- Slightly Misleading. Telehealth can be advertised as a virtual option, but it is not the full story. These include tests that can not be done remotely.
- Insurance Companies. Although telemental health is becoming more common, there are still some issues with insurance claims. Often, telehealth is allocated fewer funds than a normal therapy session.
Is This The End of In-Person Care?
Can telemental health replace in-person care? Short answer – no. Remote appointments are valuable for those without access to normal care. Especially in a time like now, where seeing a therapist in-person may be impossible, telehealth can act as a lifesaver. Even so, aspects of a doctor’s office cannot be replaced.
A fact of the matter is, some tests cannot be done through a screen. Another reason is that telehealth makes it more difficult for a patient to feel comfortable. Intimacy forms a unique relationship in healthcare. Doctors are not only meant to diagnose us. They also help comfort us in times of stress. The emotional aspect of therapy can be difficult to replicate through a screen.
Telehealth is the result of great innovation and has helped many get through these tough times. When one cannot meet with a doctor in-person, the option of telehealth will remain. Having this option to fall back on has become the lifeline of many during the pandemic. This should not be overlooked. So, although telemental health cannot replace a psychiatrist’s office, it remains a formidable alternative.