How Digital Therapy is Changing Accessibility to Mental Health Services
Insights into the future of telehealth and personalize health
It’s no secret that lots of people are suffering in many different ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial difficulties, joblessness, lack of physical activity, isolation, stress, and worry are just some of the factors contributing to depression, anxiety, and other common mental health challenges. Additionally, many of those with serious mental illnesses no longer have in-person access to the care they need.
Over the past decade, we’ve come a long way in recognizing the importance of mental health services. We’ve also seen important shifts in how our society views mental illness. However, it isn’t always easy to get access to mental health services, especially during a pandemic. Here’s how digital therapy is stepping in to help.
Telehealth Is Expanding How We View & Treat Mental Health
Telehealth has been around for years, but it has exploded now that the pandemic is keeping people in their homes and preventing doctors from helping patients with non-emergent issues. Patients can consult with mental health professionals like therapists and social workers over video chat and get ongoing support, even when they can’t come into the office.
This rapid shift toward telehealth is changing and expanding how we view and treat mental health. People who visit therapists in person are switching to online appointments and people who have never sought out mental health support before are reaching out to online therapists as they cope with the fallout of COVID-19.
Digital Therapy Provides More Opportunity to Treat a Wider Patient Audience
Accessibility involves a lot of factors that go beyond cost. Local provider availability, patient knowledge and empowerment to seek out treatment, time off from work to attend appointments, reliable transportation, and access to childcare are all factors in whether or not someone has historically had access to high-quality mental health services.
Digital therapy could eliminate many of these obstacles and allow for better mental healthcare accessibility in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Now that most Americans have smartphones and internet access, mental health professionals can provide support for a more diverse patient base without causing them inconvenience. This access could help individuals struggling with a wide range of mental health concerns and help them to improve their lives.
Mental Health Apps Provide 24/7 Accessibility to Treatment
Online therapy is an important part of telehealth for behavioral and mental health, but it’s not the only tool that can be used to help patients. Health apps can help to provide ongoing monitoring and accountability, reminders, and tracking for patients who are working with a health professional on their mental health.
Not only do these apps automate certain tasks, but they can also provide 24/7 accessibility when needed. Some apps can connect patients with a healthcare professional or crisis hotline when necessary, but apps can also play a role in helping patients through everyday struggles and mental health challenges.
If patients are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, there are lots of apps promoting mindfulness with meditation, affirmations, journaling, and more. These apps can really help patients who need a healthy coping outlet when their healthcare provider isn’t available.
Are Digital Therapeutics the Foundation of Modern Healthcare?
Even after this pandemic is resolved, we can expect digital therapeutics to play a much larger role in modern healthcare than they have even in the past few years. Today, healthcare is shifting toward personalization, real-time treatment, accessibility, and preventative care over intervention.
Digital healthcare tools, like electronic health records, are becoming more sophisticated and allowing for data collection, analysis, and improved communication. Because of this, healthcare providers can monitor and track patient progress, spot patterns, and help patients take control of their mental health. This will be key as we move forward and reshape the healthcare landscape of the future.
Looking Ahead and Planning for Accessibility
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and people need ongoing support for managing any concerns that might come up. Patients and therapists may not be able to meet in person at the moment due to the global health crisis, but there are some great digital alternatives that are helping to ease some of the mental health issues that people all over the world are dealing with.
Once we get back to “normal” in the world of mental health services, we need to ask some questions. Are in-person services always the best option? Or can digital solutions provide greater accessibility and allow everyone to get the support they need?