Only in recent history have we seen the rise in telemental health practices. There are many Americans who are still skeptical about telehealth, let alone telemental health. However, there is a significant amount of data supporting the efficacy of telemental health services.

Let’s start with the basics, and define exactly what we mean when we say ‘telemental health’. Telemental health can be defined as “the use of telecommunications or videoconferencing technology to provide mental health services,” according to the National Institute of Health. At its core, telemental health allows clinicians to utilize technology to provide mental health services.

What are the benefits of telemental health?

Research from various sources supports that telemental health offers several advantages over in-person mental health care.

It’s convenient

Whether patients are at home, work, or traveling, they are able to access telemental health services. The only requirement for attending a telemental health appointment is access to a device that has video or calling capabilities. This opens up access to mental health care for people who otherwise would not be able to access traditional mental health services.

There are fewer barriers to care

In our current healthcare system, there are unfortunately a lot of barriers to patients seeking care. Although offering virtual services is not a cure-all to these barriers, it certainly reduces them.

For instance, telemental health options are especially convenient for patients who may not have access to transportation. Patients are able to attend telemental health appointments from any location, as long as they have access to the internet. This eliminates a major roadblock to those interested in this type of care.

Though the stigmas around seeking mental health treatment have been greatly reduced in recent years, telemental health care allows for a level of privacy that makes it even more accessible for those who seek it.

Patients have access to more providers

Whether patients are looking for a provider who speaks the same language as them, has the same cultural background, or specializes in their condition, telemental health allows patients to find telehealth providers who specialize in mental health services and suit their needs.

Ayana Therapy, a 100% telemental health service, found a need for therapists who understood the immigrant and BIPOC experiences. Their fully virtual operation allowed for marginalized communities to access quality intersectional mental health treatment.

It’s just as effective as in-person therapy

Research from the American Psychological Association showed that there was no significant difference in treatment outcomes between patients who received in-person care versus those who received telemental health services. In fact, patients who engaged in telemental health showed a decrease in symptoms that aligns almost exactly with patients who received in-person treatment.

How to create a successful, HIPAA compliant telemental health practice

There are a couple of factors you’ll want to take into account when beginning to offer telemental health or telepsychiatry services. Let’s review those considerations now.

Get familiar with state and national telehealth laws

When offering online counseling services, or any telemedicine services to patients, it’s important to be aware of what your local and state laws surrounding telemedicine entail. Here is a resource from the Department of Health and Human Services which outlines some of those considerations.

No matter where you’re located, you’ll want to make sure that the software you’re using is HIPAA compliant. You’ll also want to get in the habit of practicing cybersecurity awareness. Because all of your practice operations will be virtual, it’s a best practice to monitor your cyber hygiene.

Keep patient-centered care at the forefront

Engaging in empathetic, patient-centered care doesn’t shouldn’t fall by the wayside just because the appointment is being conducted via telehealth. Even over a video visit, active listening and compassionate responses go a long way. Things like handshakes can be replaced with engaging conversation and eye contact.

Telehealth consultant Sam Lippolis suggests that a change health care providers can make that has an immediate and major impact (and is incredibly easy) is to bring your camera closer to you. This makes the virtual visit feel more personal and thus, you more trustworthy.

Offering telemental health services to patients allows them to have the opportunity to choose what type of care best suits their needs. And most importantly, they will find that the care they receive through telehealth services is virtually the same as that of in-person visits.

Check out our Mental Health Plan to see more of what OhMD has to offer Mental Health Professionals.

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