Updated: Feb 8
Let’s start off with defining telemedicine for ourselves, because there is no universally accepted definition for it yet, but in general, it's essentially an integration of technology for the treatment of medical care. Most people would imagine it to be a virtual conference, with an audiovisual component, between a doctor and a patient, to discuss the patient’s current medical issues, and to come up with a treatment plan.
Telemental Health is telemedicine specific to mental health treatment, either visits with a psychiatrist or through therapy sessions with clinical psychologists. There are multiple studies showing telemental health care is comparable to in person care(1), in some cases, perhaps even more beneficial(2).
Why should we use telemedicine though? What are the actual benefits of using it?
Here we’ll look at some of the advantages of telemedicine for patients.
Comparing telemedicine to in-person care, the wait time for telemedicine is usually shorter. Most telemedicine services would also utilize better booking systems, easing access to doctors/therapists, so that you can see someone sooner.
In some cases, because of the lack of some overhead costs - such as rental of offices, hiring of receptionists, the doctors and therapists on telemedicine could provide their care for a lower fee when compared to their peers who have equivalent training and experience.
For our platform, we’re charging the minimum recommended fee as recommended by the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychologists.
Convenience and Flexibility
Telemental health care is improving accessibility for patients because distance and physical limitations are no longer impeding patients from actually seeking care. The appointment times are scheduled so we don’t have wait times at the clinic, it is also adjustable to allow for patients to work the appointment into our daily routine so that we don’t miss work, or require us to find child or elderly care.
Without a physical need to be at a certain clinic, there will not be any transportation cost as it is done wherever we physically are. No parking fees and definitely no risk of getting fined for parking over time. No weather problems to deal with either! As long as there’s good internet connection, patients from rural areas would be able to access us as well.
Reducing Infectious Diseases
With the recent pandemic, we are more careful about communicable diseases, infections that can spread easily, and one of the ways we can reduce infection rates is by becoming safe and reducing unnecessary interactions. Telemental health allows us to reduce the chance of getting infected or infecting another person by taking doctor’s visits to a safe environment.
Improving Outcomes and Satisfaction
We also know for long term illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, telemedicine has been shown to improve overall health and reduction in the illness. It allows for people to be more adherent to follow ups. Patients feel more satisfied as well with their care, happy with the amount of interaction they have with their doctors, and also easily having an appointment to discuss concerns instead of sometimes just stopping their medicine or not being able to continue adjusting their dosage as needed.
Telemedicine such as telemental health care would allow for us to work as a team to collaborate during the patient’s care, working together from the psychiatric aspect together with psychologists and vice versa.
Security and Privacy
Although there should not be any stigma to seeking mental health, telemental health would also allow us to seek care without the need for anyone knowing, whether for missing work to seek mental health care, or having to interact with more people to get to our appointments.
The whole virtual visit will be done at the comfort of your home, or even office if necessary, most telemedicine companies have to adhere to legally required data security laws, which we do as well. Most healthcare data breaches are because of human error such as leaving files/folders open for other patients to see, or other health care workers to see, but telemedicine would not have such problems.
Overall the goal of telemedicine is to not replace the need for physical or in person care, but to allow patients to be able to access the care they need at a faster and more convenient manner and appropriately refer to in person care if needed. The goal at the end is also for the improvement of health.
Nyssa Z. Bulkes, Kaley Davis, Brian Kay, Bradley C. Riemann, Comparing efficacy of telehealth to in-person mental health care in intensive-treatment-seeking adults, Journal of Psychiatric Research,Volume 145,2022,Pages 347-352,
O'Callaghan E, Mahrer N, Belanger H, Sullivan S, Lee C, Gupta C, Winsberg M. Telehealth-Supported Decision-making Psychiatric Care for Suicidal Ideation: Longitudinal Observational Study JMIR Form Res 2022;6(9):e37746