Definition – Telemedicine refers to the provision of remote clinical services, via real-time two-way communication between the patient and the healthcare provider, using electronic audio and visual means.
Untreated mental illness is a crisis in the United Kingdom and worldwide. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) Over 20% of adults in the USA have a mental illness, but only around 45% of those receive behavioural healthcare (2019).
In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with only one adult in eight (12.1%) receives mental health treatment, with 10.4% receiving medication and 3% receiving psychological therapy. The overlap within the statistics is due to 1.3% of those receiving treatment reporting receiving both medication and psychological therapy.
Other services such as hypnotherapy, mindfulness exercises, meditation and many others can also be done using online technology aside from counselling alone.
The lack of local access to mental health services, ever increasing waiting lists, cost of private treatment, societal stigma and other factors contribute to the global widespread inability to get treatment. Tele-healthcare helps to remove some of these obstacles in order for many more able to receive the mental health care that they need and deserve. Virtual therapy sessions are enabling more and more people with addiction and mental health issues to succeed in their lives.
Suffering Without Mental Health Treatment
People with untreated addictions and mental health conditions often suffer from societal isolation, loss of key relationships and support networks, increase their risk of developing further or worsening complications including intentional overdoses, drug and/or alcohol overdoses, self harm, attempted suicides, worsening physical and mental health, difficulty maintaining employment or education and many, many more reasons besides these!
Those Currently Receiving Therapy Online
Of those currently in online therapy:
- 71% found help for their apprehension over sending their kids back to school
- 67% found help for dealing with their job loss
- 65% found help for being discriminated against
- 64% found help for their uneasiness of going back to work
- 63% found help for their concern over them or their loved ones contracting COVID-19
In addition to their loss of human connections, there are numerous potential comorbidities with mental illness. These can include sleep disorders, depression, new or worsening drug or alcohol addiction, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, obesity, personal hygiene issues and others.
12 Reasons Why Telemedicine Supports Mental Health & Addiction Recovery?
1) More Available Therapists
Using telemedicine to deliver mental health and addiction care services can help reduce the current shortage of trained, experienced and reputable treatment providers. From licensed Counsellors, Keyworkers, Psychotherapists and Doctors to Psychiatrists, mental health and addiction care specialists’ availability is decreasing throughout the country and in most developed nations around the world.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services research predicts that there will be an increasing shortage of mental health care providers over the coming years as more and more people break the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health and come forward for long overdue treatment and therapy. The DHHS predicts that shortages will become severe in multiple areas of services by 2025. With the ability to provide care by telehealth appointment, healthcare professionals can more effectively maximise availability.
Also, having access to country or world renowned experts also allow service users to choose the very best from their respective fields of care. This will globally increase the quality of care that addicts and mental health sufferers receive.
2) Ease Of Treatment Access
Meeting with a therapist or healthcare professional remotely, instead of being required to drive to the medical/therapy practice eliminates the burden of commuting to receive therapy. This can enable busy parents, rural patients, overworked professionals, small business sole proprietors, handicapped patients, elderly people, patients without vehicles, those with mental health conditions involving anxiety or fear of being outside around others to attend therapy from the safe comfort of their home.
Also international differences in time also allow service users to access specialists who may reside in other countries to seek their help without needing to travel to another country and suffer from possible jetlag, infections, issues surrounding substance addiction, entry problems as a result of the individuals prior criminal records and others.
3) More Cost-Efficient Treatment
Virtual care can be expected to be more cost-effective for providers and patients. Paying for teletherapy, vs. treatment at a private practice or doctors surgery can be more affordable in countries where patients are required to pay for healthcare themselves or for uninsured patients. Plus, transportation, child care, lost work and other costs for treatment are eliminated.
4) More Consistent Treatment
For many people who need mental health and/or addiction treatment, their personal circumstances are unstable, leading to disruptions of their mental health and addiction care routines.
For example, they may struggle with job losses, financial distress, eviction, unexpected relocation, broken primary relationships, chronic drug and alcohol use, and other shocks to their mental health and addiction care routine. With virtual treatment sessions, the patient can more easily continue with a therapist or healthcare professional, even when their personal circumstances change or where attending a physical therapy session may be difficult or inappropriate for their care needs.
5) Less Stressful For Patients With A Dual-Diagnosis
A Comorbidity or dual diagnosis is where more than one disorder is present in the same person at the same time, for example a patient with borderline personality disorder may also have a drug and alcohol addiction as well.
Dual diagnosis/comorbidities account for a staggering 70% of all patients and service users of behavioural/addiction healthcare providers. Patients and service users requiring multiple forms of treatment and therapy like addiction and combined therapies are met with special challenges. They must cope with multiple health conditions simultaneously and meet more intensive attendance demands if they want to receive all the therapy and care that they need.
Virtual treatment sessions make it possible for them to receive more therapy with a less physically demanding attendance regime as most individuals who do have a dual diagnosis find it difficult to attend regular, multiple appointments that are spread over different days, times or with different therapists or healthcare professionals.
6) Helps Therapists Develop Deeper Insights Into Their Client Or Patient
Addiction and mental health care professionals can naturally develop deeper insights into their patients’ problems and solutions when they can meet with them virtually in their homes. Spending time in the patient’s personal, regular environment allows the therapist or healthcare professional to observe their habits of self-care, the condition of their living environment, how their family dynamics are, as well as other helpful diagnostic, therapeutic and treatment information which could lead to a better, custom made care package for the individual, leading to a more successful, longer term positive outcome.
Online therapy also allows for group and family therapy as well as one to one therapy for the individual in question, however being able to access group therapy allows for the whole family to gain from the therapeutic experience as well as to voice their concerns and to view situations from different perspectives that may have otherwise been missed or ignored.
7) Ease Of Professional Collaboration
Telecom innovations and ever increasing improvements in technology have made collaboration between mental healthcare, addiction care providers and relevant specialists much more accessible, for more robust programs of ongoing care plan engagement. For example, someone with a recent history of worsening mental health and substance dependence may also benefit from speaking to social services, housing support teams or others. With the current and future technology, this makes this group collaboration a better, seamless and integrated package of support and therapy for the individual(s) in question.
This means care providers are no longer relatively isolated from others during treatment. They can now work with other clinicians via virtual sessions, to deliver comprehensive treatment. This approach can also reduce the need for hospitalisation or rehab/detox attendance, and enable care providers to manage mental illness, addiction, stabilise patients and help prevent escalation of crises that lead to expensive, time consuming inpatient admissions which aren’t appropriate and detract from the care that they could be providing to patients who do need inpatient treatment and care.
8) More Conducive To Patient Bonding
Receiving mental health and addiction care inside the comforting surroundings of their own home can help many patients feel more secure, less apprehensive, self-protective and allow themselves to become more open to honesty and more easily accepting of recommended therapy or treatment. It can allow them to feel freer to connect at a deeper level of trust and be more open to productive teamwork with their mental health care, addiction therapy and other ancillary care providers.
9) Alleviates Worries About Stigma
Receiving therapy via modern day technology can help reduce the fear surrounding, shame and embarrassment that the stigma of mental illness and addiction that is unfortunately still prevalent within those who don’t have direct or indirect experience with addictions or mental health conditions. For people with anxiety, have social phobia or worry about being seen by friends, family or work colleagues who may spot them entering the therapeutic environment, or travelling to a private practice or therapy centre, using this form of technology can help to ease some of these symptoms, which in some cases can become crippling for the person in question.
That fear causes many patients to avoid seeking the care, therapy and support that they need and deserve, often leading to worsening of their condition before help is sought. Doing this can also cause unnecessary damage, both physically and mentally to those who delay therapy and treatment. Telemedicine allows them to utilise mental health and addiction services privately, in their own home.
10) Enables Remote Addiction Treatment
Telemedicine is proving effective in providing a broader treatment platform for people afflicted with opioids, methamphetamine, alcohol, other substances, as well as other forms of addiction such as sex, gambling or food for example. Drug and alcohol addiction have become vast national crises in the United States, United Kingdom and many other developed nations around the world, and unfortunately this number will continue to grow year on year if change isn’t made within our governments and healthcare systems, but also with the way that we think and respond to the idea surrounding treatment and the stigmas that are still unfortunately attached to the labels of addiction and mental health.
The problems are beginning to become as rampant in rural areas as in urban neighbourhoods, but the majority of addiction or mental health treatment or therapy facilities tend to be in or near bigger towns or cities. Treatment sessions via virtual meeting technologies can enable people to receive treatment and therapy wherever they live. This also allows them to access experts in their respective fields of specialism, leading to a greater amount of support and long term success rates among those afflicted by mental health and addiction issues.
11) Makes Treatment More Affordable
For women or men with children, allocating funds or access to childcare services in order to attend therapy can be cost-prohibitive in many average peoples lives (unless you have money in the bank or have good relationships with other family members or friends who can provide temporary childcare).
For students and other young people struggling with severely limited finances, the elderly on a fixed income or those with a low-income, telemedicine makes therapy affordable for more people, and also provides access to a wider range of services that would have otherwise been excluded as a result of finances or geographical restrictions.
12) Slowing The Spread Of Infectious Diseases & Pandemics
Going to the doctor’s surgery or private therapy practice means being around other people who may be sick, often in close or confined spaces. This can be particularly dangerous for people with underlying health conditions or who may have a weakened immune system. Telemedicine eliminates the risk of picking up or spreading an infection from person to person and location to location. This is especially true with the current Coronavirus plight worldwide.
When Telemedicine May Not Be Appropriate
Telemedicine may not be appropriate in the following circumstances and may benefit from other, more traditional treatment and care methods.
- Typing speed can limit the conveyance of information in chat-only based sessions. Sometimes people say less when writing than they would when speaking; reducing the amount of information available for the therapist to work from.
- People may find it difficult to put complex thoughts and emotions into written words. People have different skills as expressive writers
- There is a greater chance of miscommunication between client and therapist. Therapists cannot as easily access body language information (even when using video chat). Counsellors are therefore at a greater risk of missing important, non-verbal cues
- Online counsellors are not able (ethically) to work with people in immediate crisis or with serious psychiatric illness. In these situations, counsellors should seek alternative versions of therapy which allow professionals to observe the client in person and evaluate the degree of risk and the best continuing course of action.
- Although all legitimate therapists must abide by confidentiality and privacy constraints, online therapy may pose a greater security risk than in-person sessions. Someone could breach your computer, your Wi-Fi point, your therapist’s computer – etc; and since what you reveal may be very sensitive, privacy issues are significant.
- Insurance companies in countries where healthcare isn’t provided by the state, such as the UK’s NHS rarely cover the full or partial costs of online counselling.
- It may be easier for unscrupulous illegitimate/uncertified counsellors to operate online. Some online counselling clients may be putting themselves at risk of, at best, wasted money and at worst, dangerous mental health advice. Even legitimate therapists operating from other countries (or even from other states or counties) may not require the same standard of certification. Due diligence is necessary, when retaining the services of an online counsellor.
- Medication cannot be prescribed after an online counselling session in countries or services where medicines can also be prescribed within the same organisation.
- An unreliable internet connection may interrupt the flow and delivery of the therapy.
- When the individual doesn’t have access to the technology required for it to work. However this is being phased out as more and more people come to rely upon technology during their day to day life.
- Concerns over other people in the house may listen to conversations which can cause more issues, especially in households where domestic violence or abuse takes place.
- Where time zones or languages make communication more difficult if you are using a therapist from another country or time zone.
The Telemedical Mental Health Treatment Solution Now & In The Future
The US and UK healthcare system has been challenged for a long time to meet the country’s ever-increasing needs for access to behavioural therapies and healthcare. In fact, insufficient access to mental health treatment services has become a serious deficiency in the overall healthcare system over the past decade, with waiting lists and needs ever increasing and worsening month on month.
Naturally, telehealth services cannot be expected to resolve all treatment issues for all patients who need help with issues of addiction and mental health conditions. However, advanced technology can accomplish an extraordinary amount of improvement in the system, by helping people connect to the essential mental health resources for living healthier lives, speeding up access to care, reducing waiting times, better triaging of the severity surrounding the individuals needs, as well as reducing costs by the government or care system and many more.
Help From Us Here At Drink ‘n’ Drugs
We are an addiction and mental health counselling and addiction recovery treatment centre in the south coast of the UK. We help people overcome all kinds of substance addiction and associated problems with mental health. Our addiction recovery Specialists and Keyworkers, Counsellors and other mental health treatment providers collaborate to create a truly personalised therapy program for each individual based on need and desired outcome rather than on the cost of the services we provide.
Every member of our professional staff is available daily, so when you get in touch with us, you will be talking to professionals who have not only direct, personal experience with addiction, recovery and mental health issues, but are also highly trained and experienced professionals who only want the absolutely best outcome for their service users, to live happy, healthy, productive and prosperous lives!
To find out more about our services and how we may be able to help you overcome your addiction and mental health issues, visit our link to our therapy page here. Our highly professional and friendly staff are on hand to answer questions and help you as quickly and easily as possible, so if you’d like to get in touch with us, you can find our contact information here.
You can also find a list of a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you with other associated issues on our help and support page here.