A mental health epidemic was underway well before the pandemic changed how we relate to healthcare. Estimates by the United Nations placed about a billion people in need of mental health services in 2019, while just a little over 45% of Americans received the help they needed. However, compared to 2019, 29% more adults in the US self-reported feeling anxious or depressed in 2021, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Study.
New digital solutions to global mental health challenges are continuously changing healthcare. Coupled with a mental health professional shortage that affects over 120 million Americans, it is barely surprising that providers and patients alike are looking elsewhere to cope. The online sphere has, in particular, stepped up to meet this demand, quickly becoming the top choice for such people suffering in silence.
Read on to learn more about how digital solutions may be a viable choice for your mental health needs.
Providing Increased Avenues for Learning & Growth
A global boom in the internet explosion, coupled with the realities of living in a post-COVID world, has proven beneficial for mental health medical education. Experts estimate that online learning will grow at about 5% annually until 2027, eventually becoming a $40 billion industry.
For instance, there were hardly any online PMHNP programs available until recently. However, this is no longer the case. More and more professional nurses are using online platforms to gain more control over the trajectory of their careers. Nurse practitioners who want to specialize in mental health can now do so without any significant disruptions to their professional lives.
The rising popularity of online learning has led educational innovators in this sector to restructure their curriculums, incorporating gamification, wearable tech, and mobile simulations to attract more people to the fold. The industry is also responding in kind, with more investments from biotech, social wellness research, and pharmaceutical companies assisting educational institutes in taking their degrees online.
Improving Access To Mental Health Services
Research conducted by Accenture has indicated that nearly 1 in 2 Americans are open to telehealth services. This figure is hardly surprising, given the dismal state of healthcare access here in the United States. SAMHSA reported that nearly 3 in 5 counties did not have any access to mental healthcare in 2017, and 7 in 10 people with substance abuse disorders did not get the help they needed.
Telehealth companies are now increasingly using the web to offer a mixture of synchronous (direct virtual communication) and asynchronous (delayed virtual communication) tools to improve access to mental healthcare for all Americans. Companies like Sesame Care, iCliniq, and Talkspace have developed and implemented various tools to help healthcare providers offer online services.
These companies use AI-powered platforms to provide on-demand care to patients, matching providers with their location, particular need, and insurance coverage. All the while, pre-programmed tools like chatbots and gamified digital therapy are becoming more popular with people with less severe conditions, as the Harvard Business Review reported.
Lowering Healthcare Costs
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, mental health is a costly affair, resulting in over $290 billion in productivity losses. Despite this, most people’s mental health services continue to be exorbitantly priced and out of reach. In most parts of the United States, people can expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $250 for a single 50-minute therapy session. These figures don’t consider additional costs, such as medication or unexpected ER visits, which added to nearly $5 billion in 2019 alone.
Thanks to a mixture of HIPAA-compliant tools like Doxy. me and Ginger and the telehealth sphere are rising with increased buy-in from the government and private sectors. People are responding positively, with NIH reporting high levels of patient satisfaction with digital mental healthcare. The VA also corroborates these findings, highlighting that, in 2020, veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress found virtual therapy appointments as satisfying as in-person ones. Web-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has also proven to be highly effective in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to research by JMIR publications.
Removing Prejudices Against Seeking Help
Many people seeking help for their mental health are deterred by the social biases they may encounter if word gets out about any treatment. Psychiatry.org reported that people with declared mental health conditions face discrimination at the workplace in virtually every country, leading to lower self-esteem and other harmful outcomes.
Digital tools can counter these prejudices by offering a more secure, private route to therapy. VR and AI-assisted platforms can protect people’s privacy and direct them to mental health help well beyond the limitations of their location. Persons of color or minority cultural groups can also access professionals who can understand their situation through these platforms. This flexibility is why healthcare insurance companies such as CIGNA, which have traditionally written off telehealth services, are now beginning to offer coverage for them.
Reducing Lengthy Wait Times
According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, even when mental health help is available, most people in the United States have to spend at least a week before an appointment with a healthcare professional. People from underserved communities and the elderly who receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits face the most significant risks of being ignored.
Digital platforms that provide inclusive and holistic care are helping remedy this situation. They do so by connecting primary healthcare providers with mental health practitioners and using technology to better pair patients with people who can help.
The digital healthcare space will continue to grow and provide greater access at a lower cost to vulnerable people who would otherwise be left behind. Digital platforms offer viable options for both healthcare providers and patients, allowing them the dignity and ease of treatment they rightfully deserve.
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