Using telehealth to provide services to patients with severe mental illness (SMI) shows promise, but does not necessarily improve medication intake. It remains unclear whether expanding these services would improve the quality of care.
These were some of the results of a cohort study published in JAMA network opened as of June 27, there were 118,670 patients with schizophrenia or related psychotic disorders, and/or bipolar I disorder in non-metropolitan counties.
The study found that the use of telehealth services improved patients’ follow-up rates with health care providers after hospitalization, along with a “modest increase” in contact with specialist mental health professionals.
“However, no substantial changes in adherence were observed and an increase in hospitalizations was observed,” the report said.
The increase in hospital admissions doesn’t necessarily mean that the use of telecare led to poorer care, ending with a hospital visit, the report warned, but the use of telecare enabled health professionals to correctly identify and stabilize patients in acute crisis. .
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
As health care becomes more distributed, patients have more opportunities to seek care outside of traditional health systems.
However, this access to multiple care channels has created a new problem: the virtual fragmentation of care. Community health centers have turned to telehealth to improve their services.
While the use of telehealth or telemedicine technologies is evolving rapidly, research on the deployment of specialized mental health services and adherence to telehealth technology has been limited, given a boost from the pandemic.
In rural areas, access to specialized care remains a challenge for patients with severe mental disorders, the report said. There is currently an active debate in many states about whether or not to extend pandemic temporary extensions of telemedicine to care for mental illness.
Other digital services, including the use of tablets, have helped bring mental health programs to patients in rural areas.
According to another study published in JAMA network openedproviding a video-enabled tablet to veterans living in rural areas reduced emergency room visits and suicidal behavior.
THE BIGGER TREND
Research from 2018 had previously described the feasibility of applying telemedicine in the treatment of schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.
According to Trilliant Health’s trend analysis, which focused on the use of telehealth in the US between March 2020 and November 2021, about a quarter of Americans used telehealth during COVID-19.
However, other researchers have found that therapists dealing with a higher percentage of clients from lower socioeconomic status groups, patients on Medicaid, and families were less likely to continue using telehealth after the pandemic.
According to the report, the use of telehealth for behavioral health is also on the rise. However, new digital health tools offered by retailers including Amazon and Walmart, as well as device offerings from Apple, Google and a slew of startups, could lead to more sophisticated and effective telehealth offerings across a broad spectrum of care.