Approximately 1 in 5 Americans ages 18 or older lives with a mental illness. Issues facing mental health care delivery are only exacerbating the problem.
Successful treatment of these conditions requires regular access to mental health care professionals and various support services – things so many Americans and Canadians don’t have easy or guaranteed access to.
It’s why the barriers to mental health care are among the most significant issues for people seeking treatment.
In this article, we explore the three biggest reasons why people are deterred from accessing mental health. Then we look at howvirtual carehas the potential to eliminate these issues facing mental health care.
Importance of Overcoming Challenges to Mental Health Treatment
Removing the barriers to mental health treatment is essential for improving lives and communities.
Nearly 800,000 people commit suicide every year, which is an average of 1 person every 40 seconds taking their own life.
With the proper treatment to address mental health conditions, we can reduce:
- Suicide rates
- Legal issues
- Family conflict
- Employment issues
- Substance abuse
- Physical health problems
But, to improve the mental health care framework, we’ll first have to understand barriers to mental health services that stop people from getting the care they need.
Biggest Barriers to Mental Health Care Access
- Financial Barriers
Financial barriers are among the top challenges in mental health services that hinder people from receiving needed care. People often cite concerns about the cost of care or lack of health insurance coverage when forgoing treatment.
In the National Comorbidity Study, 47 percent of respondents with a mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder said they thought they needed mental health care but couldn’t afford to get help.
How Can Virtual Care Reduce Wait Times?
Virtual care can make mental health treatment more affordable by reducing barriers to mental health care, such as:
- Taking time off work
- Transportation costs
- Finding child care
A program in the United States found that replacing nurse home visits with videoconferencing more than doubled their caseload capacity. Over 14 months, 43,560 driving minutes were saved.
In British Columbia, the Northern Health authority saved C$65,520 ($49,584.14) in annual travel costs alone by replacing in-person visits with telehealth sessions.
- Wait Times
Another of the major problems with the mental health system is long wait times. The longer the wait, the poorer the patient’s mental and physical health, and the less interested they are in seeking treatment.
A recent Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) study found that, in some communities, children may have to wait as long as two-and-a-half years to receive mental health treatment.
As for adults, psychiatrists see them based on priority or urgency. Despite that, they may be waiting for up to two weeks to be seen for psychoses, severe mood disorders, or an episode of mania.
How Can Virtual Care Reduce Wait Times?
Virtual care can provide direct interventions and real-time interaction between therapist and patient (for instance, videoconferencing). Other digital mental health interventions, which can complement therapy, include:
- Online mental health surveys
- Telephone-based hotlines
- Online access to mental health educational materials and resources
Lack of access to mental health care can mean different things to different people.
For instance, older or less mobile patients may not have family or friends who can provide care and take them to clinics. In rural and low-income communities there can be a significant shortage of mental health providers and services.
Other factors that limit access include:
- Lack of transportation
- Social stigma
- Insufficient information
- Inadequate bandwidth and internet
How Can Virtual Care Improve Access to Mental Health Treatment?
Up to 80% of clinically stable patients can be treated through teleconsultation as their only point of contact. That means most people can video conference with a psychiatrist or therapist from the comfort of their own homes and still receive the full benefit of the treatment.
Removing Barriers to Mental Health Services With Virtual Care
Virtual care can successfully address some of the biggest problems with the mental health system and reduce the burden of providing treatment.
It’s time to use the best features of these technologies to start motivating patients and to build a more responsive and efficient health care system to address the problems with mental health care today.
So how do physicians motivate patients to approach them for mental health care online? There are many benefits for patients seeing physicians virtually compared to office visits, including:
- Treatments can be accessed anywhere at any time
- Little-to-no waiting lists/wait times
- Real-time communication with the physician
- Reduced disruption to work and personal schedules
- Not having to travel or arrange transportation
- Freedom to speak with the physician from the privacy of their own home
With Adracare’s all-in-one practice management and patient engagement solution, health care professionals can conveniently provide services to patients living in remote or rural areas, thus reducing the length of time for a patient to receive care for mental health issues that should be addressed and handled promptly.
To learn more about Adracare and how our robust set of practice management features can help you and your practice combat the current issues in mental health, contact us today!