Telehealth’s Crucial Role in Increasing Access to Mental Health Care

Jun 14, 2024

June is dedicated to men’s mental health awareness and seeks to eliminate the stigma placed around men’s mental health. This stigma can often discourage men from speaking out or seeking help. Thankfully, telehealth can act as a vital tool in expanding mental health care access for men, seniors, and all patients.

Telehealth allows patients to access care from home, providing patients with a comfortable, familiar care setting.  A recent study found that participants reported being in the comfort of their own homes made them feel more at ease during their appointments because they felt greater privacy and were more relaxed and able to express themselves with their clinicians – especially when it came to discussing complex topics such as mental health. 

In addition to feeling more comfortable, patients can access mental health services more conveniently via telehealth. Consumers often cite long-wait times, lack of transportation, limited availability of appointments and work-related issues as the biggest barriers in accessing in-person health care. Telehealth allows patients to access care when and where it is most convenient to them. 

Virtual care also allows patients to choose the provider that works best for them, without distance barriers, which can be critically important in choosing a psychologist or psychiatrist that is the right fit for unique mental health needs. 

Further, recent research shows that mental health services continue to rank highest among the specialties still using telehealth widely and have a higher-than-average telehealth use. In fact, according to a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, virtual mental health care improves treatment engagement, care retention, and patient satisfaction, leading to improved long-term health outcomes. And while it can take an average of 48 days before a patient is seen for behavioral health services, many patients cannot wait that long. On the other hand, telehealth services can be readily available in minutes

According to a recent article, about 25 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but only 40-50 percent of them receive treatment. Telehealth can serve as a crucial tool in bridging this mental health care gap and addressing the mental health crisis. We should be expanding and protecting telehealth care options for these Americans, not taking this option for virtual care away. 

Millions of patients are at risk of losing access to needed virtual mental health care services if Congress fails to safeguard the current telehealth flexibilities. Congress must enact permanent telehealth flexibilities absent of onerous restrictions before it’s too late.

Learn more about how Congress can act now to safeguard access to telehealth HERE.