How Telemedicine Services Can Treat Mental Health and Addiction Issues

September 9th, 2016

Roughly 60 million adults in the US have mental health issues annually and over 70 percent of them receive either inadequate care or none at all. Reasons include access to care, inability to pay, living too far from a clinic, or losing patience before finding help.

There currently isn’t enough counseling and addiction services for those who need it and telemedicine might be part of the cure. Many areas of the country lack the professionals to provide service for patients suffering from mental health and addiction issues. Telehealth increases access to services by removing the barriers regarding time, travel, and stigma; once beginning a course of treatment, it becomes a way to gain a continuing support system through monitoring, feedback, and counseling.

Telehealth can give you a wider range of doctors and service options and the privacy of not having to publicly walk into a mental health or substance abuse clinic. Also, real-time check-ins for emergency situations is extremely valuable when the response could save a life. Counselors are often most needed outside the treatment setting, where patients make decisions to stay sober or prevent a risky psychological situation. Telemedicine extends the providers’ availability and offers patients an immediate resource.

Telemedicine is good for critical interventions as well as regular progress updates using a laptop, tablet, or phone. A doctor gets a much bigger picture of the problem combining remote therapy with in-office therapy. You can feel a better sense of control and autonomy knowing you can just dial the phone. The doctor has access to all sorts of historical records for more accurate and timely diagnoses and referrals. They are better able to catch physical symptoms from a primary care doctor that are associated or intensified by a mental health condition.

What to Expect

Telehealth is a tool that helps establish and maintain a patient-provider relationship in addition to more common ways of practicing medicine. You should establish a relationship with your doctor face-to-face because having the right connection with your doctor or counselor is extremely important, but use telemedicine to maintain that relationship going forward and especially in emergencies when physically going to an office is not a possibility.

Your appointment will begin with an in-depth assessment and a motivational session tailored to your assessment results and may include the following:

  • Computerized cognitive treatment options that link to online support groups through your Smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
  • a secure discussion board and forums to talk to experts
  • a panic button that provides supportive information
  • individualized reminders of reasons to continue toward your goals
  • a daily check-in assessment when required for substance use or safety issues

Subsequent visits require a question and answer session about whether you feel your treatment is effective or if you want to change something. You should be comfortable in your own environment for the discussion which can help you to relax and focus.

Your doctor or counselor will chart behaviors and symptoms as they happen and integrate your updates on problems or progress. This gives them a better understanding of your daily life. Addressing matters immediately makes it possible to proactively avoid potential risks. By combining tracking and action, telemedicine helps you receive continuous care.

Software Apps

There are basic behavior-based apps and programs, like fitness and brain-training games as well as those built specifically around mental health to inspire lifestyle changes.
is an example of a service you can use to find a health coach you can chat with using an app. A coach creates a personalized plan around your specific goals. They also use information collected from surveys and smartphone sensors to understand your social interactions, sleep patterns, and how you are feeling. Mental health progress relies on sound communication and connectivity on a consistent basis. Telemedicine encourages you to keep this communication going strong.

Video conferencing for addiction treatment or psychiatry uses secure portals on your computer. It offers video therapy and interaction with clinicians remotely and from the privacy of your home, recovery support, peer-support groups and specialty services with hard-to-reach medical specialists, such as a child psychiatrists or a physician to prescribe medication used for drug withdrawal.

Telemedicine for mental health and addiction, along with recent changes in health care coverage designed to treat these issues in the same manner as physical illness, could begin to make significant changes in the number of people who successfully receive the care they need.

Sources and Links:

net website. 2016. Is Telemedicine the Key to Making Addiction Treatment Work?

Primack, D., 2016. A New York Start-Up Finds the Right

Molfenter, T., Boyle, M., Holloway, D., and Zwick, J., 2015. Biomed Central, Addiction Science and Clinical Practice,

Hayes, H., 2016. Using Telemedicine for Addiction Treatment,

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