08-13 Telehealth trims time and distance; helps in easy accessibility to timely and specialized health care
Posted in Depression, depressive disorders, Mental Health
After 37 years of marriage, the death of his wife shattered Clark Smith. At 71, he felt alone and scared for the first time, and slowly slipped into depression. Unable to handle his mental disorder, he locked himself in his room for days, without shaving, combing his hair, or even brushing his teeth. Finally, he realized that he needed professional help.But there was a problem, his town’s medical center had only three therapists and he could be provided with just one session a month, which was clearly not enough for him to overcome his condition.
Smith started talking to people and looking for other options. Hearing his story, a fellow resident of his town who was involved in social service found that Smith was eligible for a program that might offer him two 30-minute video counselling sessions every week. The program which was eligible under MediCal, California’s version of Medicaid, would involve therapy via video sessions with a therapist from Colorado, which was thousands of miles away. This was known as telehealth.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is using modern communication technologies, like smartphones, computers, and internet, to access health care services and manage health care remotely. Though Smith was initially skeptical about telehealth, citing the lack of a “personal touch,” he later thanked it for saving his life. Just like in a traditional therapy session, all Smith had to do was sit or lay down, get comfortable, and talk with his counsellor, but via a computer screen.
Over the years and especially in the rural areas, telehealth has emerged as one of the frontrunners in health care services. This has happened due to a lack of local doctors, specialists, and professional health care providers. Further, the fast-paced lives in urban areas and lack of communication in rural areas, including many other hindrances, has also made more and more Americans turn to telehealth to connect with medical providers.
According to a recent NPR poll of people residing in the rural parts of the U.S., nearly 25 percent have used some kind of telehealth services within the past three years. While 15 percent of the participants had reported receiving treatment or diagnosis from health professionals or a doctor over the phone, 14 percent reported receiving treatment or diagnosis via email, live text chat, video app like Skype or FaceTime, mobile apps, and text messages.
The best part about telehealth is that its services are not restricted to just mental or behavioral health but also includes nephrology, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, dermatology, and other branches of the medical field.
Telehealth technology is terrific
Dr. James Marcin, critical care pediatrician at the University of California, Davis Children’s Hospital and director, University of California, Davis Center for Health and Technology is a huge supporter of telehealth. He conducts regular consultation sessions with primary care doctors in rural areas via telehealth monitors. Speaking about the services, he said that telehealth has erased physical boundaries by allowing him and several other physicians to provide health care services to patients across the country.
Dr. Marcin further added that telehealth had also cut down the cost of ensuring that medical care reached those living in rural communities. Now patients and their families did not have to make costly, time-consuming medical trips to see a specialist doctor.
Even Smith swears by telehealth these days. Beaming in his new-found confidence, Smith said that he has grown a lot in the past few months and thanks his counsellor for being patient with him and guiding him in the right direction.
In spite of it having many positives, there are some people who are not very supportive of telehealth services. Robert J. Blendon, co-director of NPR’s poll and a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, says that online technology has revolutionized health care systems which has left rural patients behind. Due to lack of services, like high-speed internet, patients from rural communities have lost their chance to connect with specialists, fill prescriptions on a timely basis, and receive follow-up information.
Though she supported telehealth services, Attorney Mei Kwong, executive director of Center for Connected Health Policy in Sacramento, is worried about the policies that regulate telehealth. She says that the current policies are outdated and nearly 12 to 15 years behind. She cited that many changes were needed in federal, state, and private insurance policies in order to make it accessible to the lower communities where there is a lack of specialists.
Seeking treatment for mental health
Mental health is as important as physical health and requires the same amount of attention and care. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to mental health disorders does not allow an individual to talk about their problems openly leading to them not receiving the required mediation. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) around 46.6 million Americans aged 18 years and above suffered from a mental health disorder. Of these, an estimated 17.3 million suffered a major depressive disorder (MDD).
If you or a loved one is looking for depression residential treatment centers that provide complete care for depression, contact the Depression Treatment Centers of California. We can assist you with the complete details. For more information about depression treatment call our 24/7 helpline number 855-678-0400 and speak to our admissions team. You can chat online with our representatives for further assistance.