By Geoffrey Boyce, Originally published on Health IT Outcomes
The sleeping giant in healthcare has awakened in recent years. While patients always have been the epicenter of care delivery, they clearly understand the power of that position today and are readily embracing it.
The age of consumerism has arrived, and patients are demanding a more active role in decision making as it pertains to the design and delivery of their care. Transparency, convenience and access are increasingly paramount, and technology is fast becoming a critical enabler of the value today’s consumers desire in their healthcare.
It’s one reason why telehealth, and more specifically telepsychiatry, has become increasingly popular as a behavioral healthcare model that is often preferred by today’s consumers. In particular, direct-to-consumer (D2C) telepsychiatry allows patients to engage with providers through videoconferencing technology from the comfort of their home or another private location of their choosing, making it an ideal option in today’s healthcare landscape.
With nearly 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 owning a tablet, and over 90 percent of American households possessing a laptop computer, the reality is that digital communication and interaction reaches into every area of life. Consequently, consumers naturally expect their healthcare providers to follow suit and align care delivery with how people manage their lives—with the help of technology.
Emerging as an ideal care approach to meet new consumer expectations for “service anytime, anywhere,” telepsychiatry is primed to more effectively meet today’s consumer trends, while also filling significant gaps in mental and behavioral healthcare. While the telemedicine movement is a force of nature in itself, a recent Forbes article pointed to behavioral health as the sector where it has had the most impact.
Telepsychiatry is closing the gap and winning over today’s healthcare consumers in the following three ways: Convenience, access and value.
Consumers speak to the likes of iOS’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa daily to make the most of their time and are accustomed to managing the details of their lives through smart devices. They also appreciate the conveniences of such outlets as Amazon Prime and online grocery and delivery options.
Convenience is king for today’s consumers who lead busy lives and are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate more family time and recreation in their schedule. Telepsychiatry addresses this need by meeting patients where they are and expanding scheduling options to provide greater choice.
For instance, consumers who travel often for their jobs find it difficult to schedule appointments during traditional weekday work hours. In this case, telepsychiatry allows them to schedule appointments in the evenings or on weekends. In addition, the anytime, anywhere framework of this model opens the door to sessions during the week from another location, allowing those traveling to access care from a hotel or other private setting.
At a time when psychiatric needs are soaring and the supply of qualified behavioral health professionals has reached severe levels across the nation, telepsychiatry is opening doors to greater access—specifically in specialty areas of psychiatry such as children, adolescents and geriatrics. In many communities today, it is not uncommon for patients to wait upwards of 60 days to secure an appointment with a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Once an initial appointment is made, follow-ups are equally as difficult.
In contrast, telepsychiatry not only provides patients more timely access to providers, but also allows them greater choice in who they see. For instance, many rural communities may only offer one child and adolescent psychiatry option. If a family prefers a provider outside of their immediate community, telepsychiatry opens this option up to them.
The priority for all healthcare stakeholders today is “value,” and consumers are no different. They want optimal outcomes at the lowest cost with the best experience. A growing body of evidence points to the effectiveness of telepsychiatry models and high patient satisfaction in a variety of settings. One literature review, for instance, found that the use of video conferencing models expedited access, decreased work absences, enhanced confidentiality and privacy, empowered patients in their care and reduced the risk of hospitalization.
Telepsychiatry breaks down traditional stigmas associated with behavioral healthcare by allowing patients to meet with providers in comfortable, familiar settings. These models also increase the likelihood that patients will seek out treatment for conditions and become more engaged in their care, ultimately leading to more sustainable outcomes improvement and diminishing the need for higher-cost interventions.
Today’s consumers expect the same convenience from their healthcare providers that they receive in other areas of their lives. Telepsychiatry is ripe for capitalizing on this opportunity as a flexible, preferred and effective behavioral healthcare option.
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