Telemedicine makes mental health care much more accessible

by Dean Tullis

Why are people not taking care of themselves by seeking the mental health services they need? There are various reasons, such as lack of insurance, transportation, social stigma, lack of mental health professionals, or mistrust in the medical system. According to The Journal of General Internal Medicine, even when people are experiencing significant health problems, they still avoid proper treatment.

For these populations and their families, avoiding medical care can turn a mild condition into a chronic one. It can drive costs up as patients end up using emergency rooms for urgent care, often without getting any long-term benefit for the mental health issues they're experiencing. 

At Voice Products, we witness this regularly as we deal with rural healthcare facilities, clinics, and school systems working to provide these services. The impact of closing schools or distance learning during the pandemic has increased the suicide rate by 20% just this last year, while trying to find mental health providers is a problem in many parts of our country, especially for schools. 

 

We can help by providing a network of mental health professionals. For one school district, we have provided mental health professionals who can directly connect with students at the various schools by telemedicine. And while some school districts -- like certain ones in Florida -- rely on the state to pay for these services, we had to get creative. We found a way to utilize their existing insurance plans and are actually billing back the students' insurance or, sometimes, Medicare/ Medicaid for the mental health services.

As you can imagine, this has several benefits, such as identifying issues early in the formative years of development. Using telemedicine to give students access to mental health when they need it brings flexibility to the patient without concerns of transportation or other barriers, real and perceived, preventing treatment. Without telemedicine, it would be difficult for these students to access mental health care to receive their desperately needed treatment.