Telehealth Keeps Mental Health Patients on the Road to Recovery
The Covid-19 lockdown was a period to forget, but it also had its upsides. Some people had a chance to reflect on life and spend more time with their loved ones. And in the world of psychiatry, it has become easier to assess mental healthcare, thanks to telehealth.
How telehealth boosted access to mental health since the pandemic
Since people could not move around and businesses were closed at the height of the pandemic, telehealth gained prominence. Many people battling mental health challenges could meet with specialists via telephone or video call without stepping out of their homes. It made mental healthcare more accessible, especially for those who were unwilling or unable to walk into a clinic frequently.
A good example is in the area of opioid addiction. Telehealth through telephone and video calls particularly leveled the playing field for medication-based treatment for opioid addiction. Due to how telehealth made life easier, opioid addiction patients are now more likely to continue medication-based treatment. This includes patients who are black, elderly, or lacked stable housing, demographics who are less likely to physically visit a facility for mental health care or continue with the treatment. And, of course, continuing treatment is crucial to preventing relapse and overdose.
But now, there's a threat to all of that.
Mental health problems could worsen if phone telehealth ends
The pandemic is virtually over, and everything is returning to how it was before the lockdown. Hospitals are now open for in-person visits. Some experts are pushing for treatments to be done in person rather than through phone calls.
If that's the case, there's a possibility that the phone telehealth option will be discontinued. No more routine telephone calls between healthcare professionals and their patients.
If that happens, your guess is as good as mine: the benefits of telehealth will diminish. Once again, fewer patients will have access to quality mental health care. The problems may return to pre-pandemic heights.
This led a group of researchers to study how telehealth has benefited certain demographics and what might happen if phone telehealth is taken away.
Telephone calls beneficial in accessing healthcare
The researchers did a study focusing on medication-based telehealth for veterans with opioid addiction. They discovered that telephone-based care is important in helping patients access treatment. This is especially true for those demographics who are less likely to access buprenorphine-based care, which is considered the gold standard for opioid addiction treatment.
Not everyone can afford or is willing to obtain the highest quality treatment. And when it comes to telehealth, not every person (such as the elderly and those with low-socioeconomic backgrounds) is familiar with video calls. But virtually everyone can make telephone calls. If that's taken away from them, the consequences wouldn't be pleasant.
"Keeping telephone-based telehealth as an option for buprenorphine care moving forward may be important for veterans who have been less likely to access video telehealth, including those who are over age 65, Black, or who have unstable housing situations," says Madeline Frost, Ph.D., M.P.H. of University of Washington, first author of the study.
Access quality telehealth services in Idaho, Utah, and Oregon
If you are battling any mental health disorder but have been unable to access quality care, telehealth is still very much available. It hasn't been discontinued, and we hope it never comes to that.
At Hope Mental Health, you can get medication-based telehealth services in Idaho, Utah, and Oregon through phone calls and live chat.
We can't wait to hear from you and give you all the help you need. Do call us today.