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The growing use of telehealth in a post pandemic world, what it means for mental health care

Nashville, Tennessee (April 12, 2022) - Over the past two years, telehealth has grown to become a common type of outpatient care. This online approach to medical treatment is not only helping people who have physical illnesses, but those who are struggling with mental health issues as well.  

According to a new study by Health Affairs, the steep rise in mental health care now delivered online and over the phone due to the coronavirus pandemic is likely a permanent change.

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Lead author Jane Zhu, M.D. and her co-authors used a nongovernmental claims clearinghouse to analyze data from 2016 to 2018 and compared it with the period during the onset of the pandemic (March to December 2020) They combed through data from a total of 101.7 million outpatient mental health visits.

They found that in the early period of the pandemic, in-person mental health visits initially fell by 21.9%, despite the increased stress related to COVID-19 closures and an increase in telework, telehealth, and remote learning. Mental health visits promptly rebounded, however, with nearly half of them (47.9%) transitioning to telehealth by the end of the study period in December 2020.

Transitioning to virtual care

In the first year of the pandemic, telehealth was becoming the new norm for mental health treatment — and  doctors and therapists across the country started to take notice. But how did health care providers make the shift to online treatment? 

Connected Nation sat down with mental health practitioners from Creative Family Counseling, a group practice in Louisville and Prospect, Ky., that specializes in marriage and family therapy, to find out how they modified their care. 

“After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky therapists were required to take 15 hours of telehealth training,” said Lacey Ryan, LMFT, RPT-S. “At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a big rush to figure out how I could get that training, so that I could support the families I was working with.”  

After Creative Family Counseling made the investment in new resources and training, each of its therapists could add telehealth to their toolkits, which allowed them to communicate with new patients and families. 

“When we started utilizing telehealth, I would say all in all, I've had more kids get access to services than ever before,” said Ryan.

It is safe to say that telehealth has created vital opportunities for many people who struggled with mental health since 2020 and will continue to increase access to services for patients across the country. 

To learn more about telehealth and how it is affecting our nation's health care, check out any of the Connected Nation telehealth web pages below.

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About the Author: Lily McCoy is the Connected Nation Communications and Social Media Speacilist. Lily provides support to the Communications Department through social media outreach and writing. She also adds a source of creativity to the team with a background in personal relations and marketing. Lily has a bachelors in corporate and organizational communications from Western Kentucky University.