Teletherapy Continues to Rapidly Grow
Using videoconferencing and other technology to treat mental illness has long been recognized as an invaluable tool for getting care to people in rural areas, where shortages of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other providers are more prevalent than in the rest of the nation. But now telemental therapy—also called virtual therapy, telepsychiatry, or telebehavioral health—is also rapidly expanding in major cities and suburbs due to two growing crises that directly impact one another.
First, is a growing mental health crisis, made worse by the opioid epidemic and the urgent need for drug addiction treatment programs. Secondly, the U.S. is suffering a shortage of mental health providers, so people who do seek treatment may wait weeks or months for an office visit or be unable to find suitable, affordable care at all. The result: About one in five American adults experience mental health problems each year, but less than half of them receive treatment.
Telemental health services, using secure video connections and high-definition cameras, make it possible for patients anywhere to get help without seeing a therapist in person. This technology also allows providers in areas with lower demand to treat patients in areas with higher demand, as well as bring expertise to underserved areas and populations.
Another reason for the growth in telebehavioral health is Medicare and Medicaid. These federal health programs for the elderly and the poor reimburse providers for many telemental health services, and their decisions have tremendous influence on health policy and the health care industry—with their programs accounting for more than a third of national spending on health care.
South Carolina Pacesetter in Using Teletherapy
South Carolina was the first state to focus on teletherapy efforts beginning in 2007, to address the tremendous amount of people with behavioral health issues who visit hospital emergency rooms only to wait for days because they cannot find help elsewhere. With assistance from the nonprofit Duke Endowment, largely to purchase equipment, South Carolina created a telepsychiatry network staffed by psychiatrists from within the state to serve ERs in hospitals that had few mental health providers and facilities.
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health now has telepsychiatry units in 24 ERs across the state that can connect with network providers 16 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, costly wait times for patients, which could be two to three days on weekends, have been reduced to less than eight and a half hours. The network treats an average of 400 patients a month, and as of October 2016, the network had treated more than 30,000 patients.
Building on the ERs’ success, South Carolina expanded its network of teletherapy providers to 60 public mental health centers and satellite offices statewide. In 2010, the Duke Endowment helped North Carolina set up a similar pilot program that expanded statewide three years later.
Due to the successes in North and South Carolina, states nationwide are implementing teletherapy as well. National organizations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or National Association of Social Workers (NASW), have state-level chapters that outline licensing and regulations as they relate to teletherapy. These can often differ greatly from state to state, but each recognize the growing trend of telebehavioral health and its benefits.
About Trinity Video Communications
Trinity Video Communications provides state-of-the-art Audio/Visual and video communications solutions to large corporations and healthcare organizations to transform the way they communicate and collaborate. Trinity Video also provides real-time unified communications to government agencies including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels responsible for mission critical initiatives. The company specializes in custom room design and systems integration for executive conference rooms, huddle rooms, classrooms, worship centers, and command and control centers, as well as unified communications, telemedicine solutions, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) video conferencing, digital signage, video walls, and streaming video.
Trinity Video is headquartered in Louisville, KY, with sales, engineering, and service representatives located across the US.
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