Lamberth: Telehealth gives more patients access to primary care, mental health services

Posted 3/3/21

It’s hard to believe that we have been navigating the coronavirus for more than a year. Much has changed since then. Many of us are working remotely, our kids are learning virtually, and we are …

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Lamberth: Telehealth gives more patients access to primary care, mental health services

Posted

It’s hard to believe that we have been navigating the coronavirus for more than a year. Much has changed since then. Many of us are working remotely, our kids are learning virtually, and we are doing more shopping online. Something else that has changed is how we get our medical care, whether it is for a physical or a mental health condition.

Research conducted by McKinsey found that adoption of telehealth rose by 46% in April of 2020, at a time during the global pandemic when patients’ ability to see their doctors was severely restricted.

Telehealth is not new, though until last year it was not widely available in many doctor’s offices or health centers. That has changed, including at Terros Health, and telehealth is now reaping big rewards, helping patients overcome transportation and other barriers, while overall giving more people access to care.

Today, patients at Terros Health can see a caregiver for a wellness check-up, the flu or another
physical condition, and they also can join individual or group counseling from a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop computer.

The significance of this cannot be understated.
Nationally and locally, telehealth is a promising strategy, particularly in behavioral health and for those in remote communities. And that is more important than ever, given the rise in the number of people grappling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

Last March, an estimated 45 million people — about 20% of Americans — were diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to data by the Centers for Disease Control. By June, that number surged to more than 40%, likely because of the isolation, economic hardships and other effects of COVID-19.

Even before the pandemic, a 2019 study published by The American Journal of Managed Care revealed that nearly 67% of patients and 59% of clinicians reported no difference in the “overall quality of visits” for virtual vs. in-office care.
When our team at Terros Health pivoted to telehealth visits, we worried that patients would not respond. Instead, we have seen a positive increase in patient engagement from therapy appointments, group counseling and primary care.

Many of our patients told us that telehealth is making it easier for them to see a provider and get the quality of treatment they need.

One of the benefits of telehealth is its flexibility. Patients can log in to a private and secure platform from their desired computer device at home or from a telemedicine-equipped room at one of our health centers. When the need arises, they also can be seen on site by one of our caregivers — whether it is a primary care provider or a behavioral health medical professional.

Aside from reducing geographic barriers, telehealth can also save time, enabling patients to see caregivers quickly (at Terros Health, we can schedule same-day telehealth appointments).

Is telehealth the way of the future? That remains to be seen. But it is offering new hope that patients can quickly and easily get the quality care they need and deserve.

Nathan Lamberth is a licensed professional counselor and integrated site director at Terros Health. Visit terroshealth.org.

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