This past year, the world experienced many new norms and unfortunately mental health conditions like depression and anxiety became normal for many people, which is clearly visible in people around us. These first stages can be followed by insomnia, alcohol addiction and substance use which in turn makes us susceptible and more vulnerable against COVID-19.
It has been more than a year, since the first confirmed coronavirus case in the U.S, and care providers are still struggling to meet the demand for mental health treatments. The COVID-19 pandemic not only restricted physical visits, but also, with anxiety and depression on the rise, exacerbated the high demand for mental health treatments. This has led to a shortage in care professionals and reinforced the immediate need for digital solutions. Switching from in-person to online solutions has always been a top priority for mental health care providers for various different reasons as discussed in detail in previous posts. In 2019, right before the global outbreak of the COVID-19, a survey in the U.S amongst adults with depression, showed that more than half of the participants preferred digital treatment over in-person psychotherapy sessions. According to this survey, the three main reasons for this preference were: cost, insurance limitations and stigma.
But one year later, there are more than a few reasons to switch from in-person sessions to digital ones. In October 2020, WHO reported that COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a severe disruption in mental health care services in more than 93% of countries.
In this report, the direct correlation between increasing need for mental health care and limited number of mental health care workers is deemed significant. This has reaffirmed the importance of the digital medium for health care treatments to the point where even live video sessions have generated a high demand.
Despite the high demand in the mental healthcare industry for live video sessions, there are numerous drawbacks to the method which reduce the efficiency in engagement, time spent and cost. This becomes apparent when you compare one session of asynchronous, Digital First CBT with a classic in person/live video session.
To start, let’s discuss the time spent by the care provider in both of the mental health care mediums mentioned above (Chart 1).
During in person sessions, a care provider will spend an approximate of an hour of time for each patient during the week. This time includes the time needed for distribution of information and materials to the patients, the time for the main communication between the patient and care provider about the patient’s concerns and their mental status and finally to answer any questions the patient may have.
In this medium the communication between the two parties is limited to one hours per week.
On the flipside, through an asynchronous digital first medium, the care providers’ time is spent in an efficient manner.
This will significantly reduce the time spent by the provider down to 15–20 minutes of time per individual session. This digital first medium allows for more than 50 percent reduction in the time a care provider spends which allows for a more uniform and consistent communication between them and their patients.
Now that we have established the efficiencies of a Digital-First healthcare medium with respect to the care provider’s time, it’s worthy to mention that this medium also benefits patients as well (Chart 2).
The chart number 2 shows a simple comparison between an in-person session and a Digital-First session. It is quite evident that the time spent by the patient is divided in smaller increments throughout the week rather than being crammed into one day. Which in turn leads to higher patient engagement rates in the digital platform compared to in-person sessions.
Mental health care providers are looking for solutions to overcome the shortcomings. To increase the efficacy in the workflow for care providers and deliver effective mental health care for the patients, we need to expand the usage of Digital-First sessions and develop more tools to profit from added benefits and advantages of them for both patients and care providers.