Psychotherapy has come a long way from the 9th century, when Persian physician and psychological thinker, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, started practicing purposeful and theory-based treatment. Or when Wilhelm Wundt opened the Institute for Experimental Psychology in Germany in 1879. Mental health is no longer disregarded as it once was, and more are recognizing that it directly impacts overall wellbeing. Awareness campaigns, such as National Psychotherapy Day, advocates, and more representation in the media have improved acceptance of mental health struggles and treatment.
One such way that mental health therapy has adapted and significantly improved outcomes is through virtual care. The number of U.S. mental health facilities providing telemedicine services increased from 38% in 2019 to over 68% in 2020. While COVID undoubtedly pushed a fast-forward button on the world embracing remote options, it is not that simple. Telemedicine was already on the rise pre-pandemic. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), evidence suggests promising results and patient satisfaction from online therapy. In addition, effectiveness, quality, diagnosis accuracy, patient privacy, and confidentiality have been found to be equivalent to in-person psychotherapy visits. These reasons, combined with some of the causes below, are why telemedicine and telepsychiatry continue to bust the myths around virtual psychotherapy.
Mental illness rates have risen
Whether from the toll of pandemic stressors, increased awareness and acceptance, or other life struggles, data shows that mental health issues have steadily increased, especially over the last decade. The accumulation has been the most substantial for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Because this is the same age group that has never lived in a world without devices, they tend to be comfortable doing most things, including acquiring healthcare, virtually, resulting in many receiving mental health services through telemedicine.
People are better with technology
In fact, most people are more comfortable with technology today than they were a few years ago. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 90% of adults stated that the internet was "essential or important for them personally" during the pandemic, with around 80% indicating using video calling or conferencing at least one time. With this increase in familiarity, patients realize telemedicine consultations are just as effective as face-to-face care. In fact, a recent survey found that 80% of those questioned reported that their experience with virtual behavioral health was as good or better than in-person services before the pandemic.
Demand for mental health treatment is increasing
It is no surprise that the rise in mental health illnesses has increased the need for treatment; however, for some, access is limited. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 25 million Americans reside in Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, or locations where there aren't enough providers to meet demand. Virtual psychotherapy has helped eliminate this discrepancy, providing greater access to treatment and faster appointments to those seeking care.
People still want privacy during their visits
While the stigma around mental health illnesses is decreasing, people still very much value privacy – especially when it comes to discussing personal issues such as the impact of trauma, loss, depression, or anxiety. Some studies suggest that patients prefer telepsychiatry over face-to-face visits because they feel that sharing their feelings with someone on a screen is more private or less awkward than speaking in person.
Telemedicine is winning over businesses too
Telemedicine companies have received an upsurge in funding since 2015, but the combination of the pandemic and the expansion of mental health services have stepped up investments. According to PitchBook, venture capitalists invested $6.9 billion in behavioral and cognitive health companies in 2021, with that number expected to increase in 2022. With increased popularity and investments in mental wellness, insurers are also expanding coverage for virtual care. The government is taking note as well, and in March this year, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 2471, which provides more funding for mental health programs, including virtual services.
Telemedicine gives unified care to psychotherapy patients
To live a fulfilled life, mental wellness is just as essential as physical wellness. Telemedicine was created to deliver better, faster, more complete care to those in need, including those struggling with mental health problems. If you would like to learn more about how telemedicine and virtual psychotherapy can offer comprehensive healthcare, contact VirtualMed to get started.
If you'd like a custom telemedicine solution for your hospital, get started with a consultation today!