1) Increases access to care for rural patients
One of the biggest benefits of telemedicine is the access to care it gives patients living in rural areas. It helps mental health care professionals overcome distance, weather, and other barriers, ensuring that whoever needs attention can receive it.
2) Alleviates practitioner shortages
Rural areas are not the only ones that lack access to good mental health care; sometimes even large cities simply don’t have enough practitioners. For example, some cities have high concentrations of a particular type of health care specialist, like family counselors, but a person in that city needing a psychiatrist may struggle to get care. Telemedicine can help mental health care professionals extend their reach to all kinds of underserved areas.
3) Eases the stigma of being treated for mental health
Despite the benefits of mental health, there are still lingering prejudices against it. The APA lists three different stigmas against mental health: public, self, and institutional. These stigmas work against the people who need support, and in many cases can prevent them from seeking out care. According to the UH Cleveland Medical Center Behavioral Health team, telemedicine may alleviate some of the pressures applied by these stigmas.
4) Decreases delays in care and follow-up
Follow-up appointments are another challenge that telemedicine can overcome. It can be difficult for patients to make multiple visits in a short time, but sometimes these quick check-ups are essential. A telemedicine visit decreases the time demand on patients since they can meet from home. Healthcare providers can prescribe medicines and ensure their patients are following treatment steps during virtual visits, making them an invaluable tool.
5) Decreases fear for patients
For certain patients, meeting face-to-face can be a terrifying experience. With the effects of the pandemic still lingering around the globe, many people remain uncomfortable with in-person contact. For others, the very mental illnesses they are hoping to treat may make it difficult for them to meet with mental health experts. People suffering from paranoia may find it easier to meet through a monitor, and the same can be said for people with severe social anxiety. Fear is yet another barrier that telemedicine can remove.
6) Simulates the “in-home care” experience
In addition to patients feeling more comfortable in their own homes, mental health care professionals can use virtual visits to recreate the “in-home care” experience, gaining a variety of benefits. For example, seeing the patient in their home setting can reveal information that patients themselves can’t convey—things like habits and triggers in the home.
Telemedicine can reach millions
With telemedicine, many people can gain access to care they could never reach before. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 51.5 million U.S. adults lived with some type of mental illness in the year 2019, or roughly one out of every five adults in the U.S. Many of these people never receive the care they need, but with the rise of telemedicine, mental health care providers have a new weapon to fight against the mental health epidemic.