Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was already a strong and growing demand for virtual care, especially in the field of behavioral health. The emergence of strict social distancing guidelines only increased the call for more virtual care options. As a result, behavioral health providers are launching virtual care services for the benefit and convenience of patients struggling with mental health issues.
Virtual Care For SUD And Mental Health Support
One of the most widely used virtual resources available for treating substance use disorder (SUD) is the virtual support group meeting. These meetings can be conducted by treatment providers and other organizations, allowing them to reach individuals in any location with an internet connection. However, virtual care can also be used for other purposes within the field of behavioral and mental health treatment. According to the Behavioral Health Workforce Resource Center at the University of Michigan, research supports a range of virtual care options to treat behavioral health problems, including dual diagnosis. Research studies have found that:
- psychotherapy is effective when delivered with virtual care
- the trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy model can be delivered via virtual care without compromising the effectiveness of treatment
- virtual care tools can be used effectively to motivate potential patients to enroll in treatment, as well as to monitor ongoing care
- virtual care interventions can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
Who Provides Virtual Care?
Virtual care is available to patients from a variety of different sources. The University of Michigan conducted a survey of mental health and SUD treatment organizations, as well as other health systems, to learn about the availability and use of virtual care for behavioral health services:
- Nearly half of respondents reported using virtual care for behavioral health services.
- 78 percent of respondents reported that virtual care connected patients with psychiatrists.
- 33 percent of respondents reported that virtual care connected patients with mental health counselors.
- 24 percent of respondents reported that virtual care connected patients with social workers.
- A small percentage of respondents also reported using virtual care to connect patients with psychologists, substance use counselors, case managers, and peer workers.
- The most commonly used methods of providing virtual care were video conferencing, telephone, and mobile health.
Virtual Connections Are In-Demand
Virtual connections are in-demand all across the board, largely because of the pandemic and the need for social distancing. All industries have dramatically increased their use of virtual connection services, including Google Hangouts and Zoom:
- Zoom added 2.22 million active users to the service in the first two months of 2020, which was more than the total number of users added to the service in all of 2019.
- Zoom’s daily active users recently increased from 10 million to more than 200 million in a single month.
- Google Hangouts’ daily usage was approximately 25 times higher by the end of March than it was during January.
More virtual meetings are also occurring across the healthcare industry, including within the behavioral health field. In fact, the American Hospital Association reports that 76 percent of U.S. hospitals are currently connecting with patients using video and related technologies. Similar trends are seen among behavioral health providers.
How Virtual Care Addresses Behavioral Health
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, four approaches to virtual care are currently being used in the field of behavioral health:
1. Live Video
The live video approach consists of two-way, real-time communication via audiovisual communication technology. Live video is the most flexible service available to behavioral health providers. Live video is currently used to facilitate:
- provider-to-patient visits
- group therapy sessions
- provider-to-provider consultations
- integrated care team meetings
- provider-to-provider educational sessions
2. Store And Forward
The store and forward approach involves the forwarding of video or images through secure communication systems, often for diagnostic purposes. In the field of behavioral health, this approach is used to support provider-to-provider consultations.
3. Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring involves collecting data from the patient in one location and transmitting it to a provider in another location. This approach is commonly found in provider-to-patient interactions in the field of behavioral health.
4. Mobile Health
The mobile health approach consists of applications designed to support patients and promote healthy living. Within behavioral health, this approach is used for community education purposes, as well as for follow-up care and monitoring. Virtual care services can be used all across the continuum of care, providing support for assessment, treatment, medication management, patient monitoring, continuing care, education, and collaboration.
Vertava Health Introduces Vertava Health
Vertava Health has launched Vertava Health, a virtual care platform designed to empower patients during the self-isolating times of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Vertava Health, you have access to on-demand virtual care to address depression, PTSD, anxiety, SUD, and other mental health issues. Our service protects your privacy and works around your existing schedule without disrupting your life. Once you enroll in Vertava Health, our team will work with you to create a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. You can participate in ongoing individual and group therapy sessions, as well as receive frequent check-ins with your care team. Our team is also concerned that a lack of connectedness during uncertain times can worsen your mental health and drive you towards unhealthy coping methods like self-medication. However, we can help you live out your best future with high-quality virtual care. To learn more about Vertava Health, please visit vertavahealth.com.