By Lee Horner, President of Telehealth, Stratus Video
The prevalence of mental health conditions is significant, especially in contrast to the nationwide shortage of mental health professionals. One in five Americans lives with a mental health condition and approximately 1 in 25 adults experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that interferes with or limits one or more major life activities, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Mental health resources are neither readily available nor accessible for patients needing timely diagnoses and treatment. Funding for mental health services has been slashed. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors indicated that states cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012 and nearly 10 percent of the nation’s public psychiatric hospital beds have been eliminated. More than half of American adults with mental illness did not receive treatment in 2016, leading to unfortunate consequences. In an article in USA Today, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa. stated, "We have replaced the hospital bed with the jail cell, the homeless shelter and the coffin. How is that compassionate?"
A recent analysis by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration estimates that the shortage will become more acute over the next decade; an estimated 70,000 additional providers are needed by 2025 to meet the expected growth in demand.
Unfortunately, many people with mental health conditions are not getting the care they need from traditional healthcare channels. To complicate the situation, severe physical and mental health issues are correlated. Major depressive disorder is found in 40 percent of cancer victims, 27 percent of diabetes patients, and 17 percent of people with heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fortunately, telehealth is increasingly seen as an innovative approach to solving the mental healthcare’s workforce gap by delivering patient care on a timelier basis. Patients are interested in using smartphones, tablets, and laptops to access mental health care. The Advisory Board recently reported that 65.9 percent of consumers surveyed would consider using a virtual visit for a consult with one’s regular psychologist and 55.7 percent would use a virtual visit for a consult with a new psychologist.
Given the projected provider shortage and patient interest in leveraging technology, telehealth can help address the workforce gap and improve patient access to mental health support in the following ways:
Telehealth can be used to deliver more immediate and impactful mental health care, resulting in greater satisfaction and outcomes for patients and all health providers. Using technology to quickly connect mental health professionals with patients can positively impact the timing and quality of the mental care delivered. The adoption and usage of telehealth in mental health appointments and consults will continue to increase as providers and patients experience satisfaction with virtual consults and video-based visits.
Healthcare organizations can use telehealth solutions and video-based platforms to optimize their existing workflows and address the current and future gaps of mental health providers. Removing the geographic barrier between patients and mental health professionals helps patients get access to the care and expertise they need when they need it most.
About the Author
Lee is charged with leading the overall strategic direction of the Stratus Video Telehealth Division. Lee is responsible for driving revenue by generating new business and leveraging relationships with existing clients. As a healthcare technology thought leader, Lee brings over 25 years of enterprise operating experience and has a proven track record as a key executive leader of sales, marketing and professional services for healthcare technology companies. Prior to joining Stratus in April of 2016, Lee served as President of Care Cloud, where he was responsible for overseeing and driving significant top and bottom line growth while focusing on technology excellence and client satisfaction.