THE RAPID RISE OF TELEMEDICINE IN BEHAVIORAL HEALTH
By Andrew Morrell & Henry Chao
Among the many ways the pandemic has impacted our lives, the cumulative effects on our behavioral health may be the most universal. Whether you are an essential employee, a parent managing online schooling, or a single person working from home, your life and the way you live has changed dramatically. With that change comes a range of emotions that inevitably impacts collective health and well-being. According to a recent global study, more than 40 percent of respondents said their mental health declined since the COVID-19 outbreak, citing social isolation, financial pressures, and fears about their health and safety as major causes of stress. The behavioral health industry, like most, has had to adapt to the current social-distancing conditions to continue serving existing patients. In many cases, this has meant pivoting to teletherapy. Though the use and availability of online counseling services has been steadily growing over the last few years, the pandemic crisis required some dramatic changes, including a federally mandated easing of telehealth restrictions, which helped kickstart these services into high gear. According to a recent study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, the percentage of clinicians using telehealth for more than three-quarters of their appointments rose from 2.1% to 84.7% during the COVID-19 outbreak.
AE7 had been working closely with a healthcare client on planning and designing multiple behavioral health clinics as part of an initiative to expand those services throughout the Western Pennsylvania region. Like others, the client’s behavioral health clinics shifted to teletherapy and found the transition to be successful. They are delivering 97 percent of their services remotely, and, since April, they have increased the volume of mental health services by 30 percent, which is likely the result of greater accessibility.
Read on to learn more about Covid-19 and the rapid rise of the telemedicine as well as best ways to transform the behavioral health clinics to meet current and future patient needs.