Teladoc Health released findings Wednesday showing an enormous demand for virtual mental health care since the start of the pandemic.
The telehealth giant reported that, while there has been growth in mental health services across the board, there have been a notable increase in virtual visits among men, patients over 65 and people who use Medicaid.
“The stress of the pandemic and the social issues we’ve been experiencing have led to a dramatic increase in people reaching out and seeking timely mental health support,” said Dr. Gustavo Kinrys, VP of Teladoc Mental Health, in a statement.
“In parallel with this surging need, we’re witnessing growing comfort with virtual care, especially among older adults, giving many individuals who may not have sought mental health care in the past an extraordinary opportunity to put themselves on the right path to better health,” Kinrys continued.
WHY IT MATTERS
Behavioral health professionals have pointed to the advantages of using virtual care, including accessibility and discretion for those who may not have felt comfortable accessing services in the past.
The Teladoc data seems to bear that out, with mental health visits for patients over the age of 65 increasing 16% since June – although Gen Z patients have seen the largest year-to-year growth rate in virtual behavioral health visits through Teladoc. Gen Z patients and millennials are also making up greater percentages those with of anxiety disorder diagnoses compared with last year.
“What’s particularly difficult for everyone right now, but specifically for the younger generations, is that there is no clear end game” for the pandemic, said Kinrys.
And although men with mental illnesses are less likely to receive treatment than women, mental telehealth visits for men are up 79% when compared with January, versus 75% for women.
According to a press release, men are seeking care at a higher rate for family and relationship issues than women, but growing numbers of alcohol and substance use are being diagnosed in women.
Teladoc also reports that the year-over-year number of Medicaid patients with access to Teladoc mental telehealth has more than doubled.
THE LARGER TREND
Mental and behavioral health services have repeatedly been cited as appropriate use cases for virtual care, with psychiatrists reporting in the spring that they’d been “pleasantly surprised” with the transition to telemedicine.
Some providers, such as Bridge Counseling Associates in Nevada, have specifically used telemedicine as a way to overcome hurdles they faced in reaching patients. After being awarded nearly $100,000 in Federal Communications Commissions funds for expanding telehealth, Bridge was able to provide computers and other necessary assets for the clinicians that needed them to reach their rural patients.
“The award funds from the FCC were perfectly timed to continue and expand behavioral health services during this COVID-19 crisis,” said David Robeck, president and CEO of Bridge Counseling Associates, in an August interview.
ON THE RECORD
“We know that getting mental healthcare at the right time can have a significantly positive impact on individuals, and it’s our hope that, by having multiple avenues of support, people will find the courage to reach out, to talk, and to get the help that they need, on their terms,” said Kinrys.