Telehealth moves into behavioral care


As interest in telehealth options increases, so too does the diversification of the services offered through telehealth providers. Both patients and telehealth companies are looking at behavioral health as the next frontier in remote care. In its look at the biggest health industry issues of 2016, PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute found that 72% of 18- to 44-year-olds and 43% of those older than 45 years would be willing to use telehealth services to consult with a mental health provider instead of an in-person visit.

(To view the full Category Review, click here.)

One of the biggest names looking to satisfy patient interest in behavioral telehealth is Walgreens, whose partnership with telehealth provider MDLive expanded in March to include behavioral health through MDLive’s Breakthrough. The program offers patients access to more than 1,000 state-licensed therapists and psychiatrists from Walgreens’s digital properties who can treat such conditions as addiction, depression or stress.

Beyond Walgreens, in June, telehealth company MYIdealDOCTOR introduced behavioral health services through its platform.

Though these behavioral telehealth offerings are relatively new, emerging data from a pilot for a pharmacist-run telehealth program from the Veterans Health Administration is showing that they can have an impact on patients with limited access to health care.

Twenty-two veterans enrolled in a pilot through which they received mental health disease state medication management via a live, clinical telehealth video session with a mental health clinical pharmacy specialist affiliated with the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A study on the pilot published in Mental Health Clinician in May found that, over the course of seven months, though it served a small number of patients, more providers were referring patients toward the end of the pilot as they realized its potential, and 100% of the participants who filled out the survey were satisfied with the clinic. The results seem to show promise for other behavioral health initiatives with a pharmacist at their center, according to the study.

“The pharmacist-run mental health clinic offers an alternative method to increase access for patients and allow for closer follow-up,” the study said. “Because mental health is a large and growing field, especially for our veterans, there is a continued need for additional ways to provide excellent quality and accessible care.”

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