Impact of telehealth on COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis

Ever since the pandemic onset in March 2020, coronavirus became one of the most important topics in our everyday lives. For over a year now, we are constantly being reminded of how serious the COVID-19 illness can be and what preventive measures we need to take to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

We hear about it in the news, we read about it on social media, we constantly talk about it with our families and friends. Every day, we listen about how the rates of infected and deceased are changing and how unemployment is on the rise.

The one thing we do not hear much about is how COVID-19 pandemic affects the well-being of people. Due to the severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing mental health crisis caused by the new situation did not get adequate attention or resources.

The pandemic restrictions have significantly impacted our lives. While for some of us that means spending more time in the comfort of our homes, many others are not that fortunate. With a high unemployment rate, many are struggling to make the ends meet, and that takes toll on one’s mental health. Many are also dealing with the loss of a loved one or the consequences of battling the disease themselves. In the past year, significant increase in suicide rates and domestic violence cases have been reported. In addition, for many people battling with anxiety and depression the “new normal” and stay-at home orders have only made things challenging as many were not able to receive the help they need.

Starting from March 2020, CMS has been regularly making changes to its Telehealth Services guidelines to accommodate for the stay-at-home orders and high COVID-19 risks. The guidelines for use of telemedicine were expanded to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital and clinic visits. The parity for Telehealth services was introduced, which allowed providers to use the same POS code for Telehealth as for in-person visits. The expansion of the scope also allowed telemedicine use for new providers, remote patient monitoring, remote supervision, hospice care and nursing homes.

These changes have opened a new window of opportunities for both patients and providers to have the ability to provide or receive treatment in these trying times. As these relaxations included coverage for telehealth sessions, many that would normally not be able to use such services were able to try it out for the first time. This includes both providers and patients.

The positive impact of telehealth on ability to receive much needed mental health treatment has been reported, with the following benefits being highlighted:

  • No interruption in patient treatment due to COVID-19 restrictions
  • Ease of access to the treatment for patients
  • Increase in number of consecutive sessions due to minimized travel time
  • Increased patient engagement
  • Ability to extend length of session where needed
  • Decrease in cancellation rates

The current policies and regulations due to COVID-19 that allow mental health professionals to treat patients via telehealth are yet to be made permanent. When it comes to mental health, the primary goal is to improve access to mental health services by allowing providers to meet patients “where they are”, without constraints on patient location. Some of the long-term policy goals are to keep telehealth expanded regulations that allow patients to seek treatment from a broader range of providers.

Ability to access telehealth therapy sessions over the course of the past year has made a big difference in lives of many people. By allowing for mental health telehealth services to remain accessible and covered by insurances after the pandemic ends, providers and patients would be able to achieve continuity in treatment and have better outcomes.

Vivadox telemedicine platform aids mental health providers to deliver the best care to their patients without breaking the bank. Fully HIPAA compliant, the platform follows best security practices to protect your information. Features including unlimited video and phone calls, encrypted chat and attachments exchange, appointment booking and scheduling, and non-insurance patient billing are available for providers to use in their day-to-day activities.

Browser and mobile-friendly interface allows both patients and providers to easily access the platform wherever they are.

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