The Ease and Accessibility of Remote Health Care Delivery
At some time in their lives, one in four women and one in 10 men in the United States will need treatment for depression. Yet only one-third of these people seek help, and many of them discontinue treatment prematurely. This is because a number of barriers have always stood between patients and health care providers, including social stigma, cost, and lack of access.
Psychological researchers and practitioners have made great progress in developing effective mental health treatments in the last 20 to 30 years, reports Alan Kazdin, Ph.D, but individual therapy can no longer continue as the dominant form of treatment. Instead, interventions that utilize technological advancements – namely mobile devices, Smartphones, and the Internet – can and should be developed.
Having said this, mental health care no longer has to take place on a therapist’s couch. Thanks largely to Skype, which has dissolved some of the resistance in receiving care, patients can turn on their laptops, sit in their offices or living rooms, and get to the bottom of their concerns and/or limitations. Furthermore, Skype allows people to choose well-regarded psychiatrists or psychologists in a variety of locations, rather than those within easy reach of driving who are perhaps less qualified.
While sitting in the same room together certainly creates feelings of immediacy and warmth, Skype reportedly doesn't take away from the patient-provider experience. To start, people who speak to each other using Skype tend not to look away. Their faces are just a few feet from each other, thus creating a surprisingly intense connection while addressing emotionally-charged topics. Skype can also be available at those exact moments when a person is suffering anxiety, feeling most depressed, or struggling with a particular emotional issue. If the doctor is available, the session can begin in mere seconds.
The Truman Group in St. Paul, Minnesota, provides mental health care via Skype to North American and Western European expatriates living overseas. This facility believes “there is no doubt we will continue to see an increased use of remote health care delivery – including psychology – as technology continues to improve.” Its founders go on to say a growing body of research has shown remote mental health care compares favorably with therapy conducted in-person. The use of Skype is described as effective, secure and confidential.
Computer-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) is another technology that leverages the Internet for coaching patients in self-driven or provider-assisted programs. These systems replicate aspects of cognitive behavior therapy for a growing range of mental health issues.
Some researchers believe CCBT is the most effective non-pharmacological treatment for many mental disorders, especially anxiety and depression. It teaches self-help skills (often using homework to bolster lessons learned and practiced), is problem-focused and must be accomplished in a set amount of time.
Of course, many physicians are quick to say not everyone can be treated via the Internet. Mental health professionals still need brick-and-mortar offices, and treatment must be delivered by those who are both qualified and professional. But, by offering many different treatments in many different ways, the world of health care dramatically increases the chances that some form of treatment will be accessible to every person in need.