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Increasing Patient Access to Virtual Health Resources

The adoption and usage of virtual care platforms is continuing to grow as providers and patients experience satisfaction with using virtual consults and virtual visits vs. in-patient appointments:

  • A meta-analysis of 92 studies found that the differences between Internet-based therapy and face-to-face were not statistically significant (Journal of Technology in Human Services, Vol. 26, No. 2).
  • A review of 148 peer-reviewed publications indicated that patient interventions via video conference resulted in high patient satisfaction, moderate to high clinician satisfaction, and positive clinical outcomes (Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, Vol. 16, No. 3).
  • A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Vol. 71, No. 7) found that videoconferencing can be successful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. In that study, researchers compared the effectiveness of 12 sessions of anger management therapy delivered via video to in-person delivery of the same treatment to 125 rural combat veterans with PTSD. The researchers found that the video-based anger management therapy was just as effective as the face-to-face care.

More recently, an article in the Atlantic features Tom Insel, M.D., a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and his perspective on the future delivery of behavioral and mental health care.  Dr. Insel views a smartphone as both a diagnostic instrument and a life-saving mode of connection and treatment.  The challenges in addressing population needs for mental health are vast.   In order to reach more patients in real-time, Dr. Insel imagines that smartphones are a solution to delivering timely mental health care.   “We’re not going to reach all those people by hiring more psychiatrists,” says Dr. Insel.

Patients also value the use of smartphones – or tablets and laptops – to access mental health care. The Advisory Board recently reported that 65.9% of consumers surveyed would consider using a virtual visit for a consult with one’s regular psychologist whereas 55.7% would use a virtual visit for a consult with a new psychologist.

Hospitals, health systems and health plans can integrate virtual care platformsinto their existing workflows in order to address the challenges of a short supply of behavioral health providers across the country.   Removing the geographic barriers between patients and behavioral health providers helps patients obtain access to the care and expertise they need when they need it most.

Technology will continue to evolve as an impactful way of delivering health care, driving greater satisfaction and outcomes for patients and providers.

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