Every year, approximately one of every five Americans suffers from some form of mental illness.  However, fewer than half of them receive mental health service in any capacity.  Knowing that the National Institute of Health considers drug and alcohol addiction a mental health disorder, the growing opioid epidemic is only exacerbating the situation and increasing the need for better and more efficient treatment options.  Telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions are already being used to deliver better and more efficient healthcare services and can certainly play a role in reducing the mental health burden.

Shortage of mental health professionals

Like other specialties and general practitioners, there is a shortage of mental health professionals that makes securing appointments difficult, either due to distance or lack of available openings.  In fact, 60% of U.S. counties do not have even a single psychiatrist (that number increases to 80% when considering only rural counties).  Telehealth programs can play a significant role in bringing mental health services to these areas by eliminating geographic barriers.  Using videoconferencing capabilities and remote patient monitoring solutions, doctors are able to consult and treat patients across distances, making it easier to secure and keep appointments.  Likewise, telehealth allows doctors to extend their services to patients outside reasonable commuting distances, allowing them to see more patients and maximizing their productivity.

Stigma

Mental health patients are often stigmatized and, thus, avoid seeking treatment in an effort to hide their conditions from others.  Telehealth services and remote monitoring allows patients to seek treatment from the comfort of their own surroundings, reducing the stigma and increasing the chances they will seek treatment.

Patient interest and participation

In order for treatment to be successful, patients have to participate and be engaged.  By encouraging regular data collection or input, remote patient monitoring solutions increase patient involvement and keep them engaged in their programs.  The traditional alternative of forcing them to make appointments for offices visits results in many missed appointments and lack of interest.  In addition, the increased use of mobile devices and applications makes telehealth and RPM devices and applications more acceptable to a growing number of patients who are already comfortable with the technology.

Ongoing care

Telehealth alternatives make ongoing care and follow-ups more convenient and easier to schedule, even if initial consultations take place in-office.  Patients are able to more easily schedule recurring appointments and doctors are able to see more patients in-office as needed.  RPM solutions make regular data collection/entry easier, whether facilitated by automated devices or manual entry into apps by patients.

Crisis management

Patients who are in the midst of a crisis situation or addiction relapse are able to more easily seek emergency consultations with mental health professionals, reducing risks associated with their conditions and reducing readmission rates in hospitals.

Telehealth and remote patient monitoring can help ensure more mental health patients receive the care they require, which also helping address a shortage in mental health professionals.  The data collected through RPM systems can help doctors better understand behavioral and emotional triggers, allowing them to deliver more effective care.  But, the keys to providing better care lies in making services available and ensuring patients seek help when necessary.

Thanks to telehealth and mobile technology, new capabilities for treating mental health patients can make initial diagnosis, ongoing monitoring, and overall understanding of conditions more effective.

For more information on remote patient monitoring systems, click here.