In the news recently was the case of Dr. Susan Haney who has been battling to keep her medical license after her employer required her to get written permission from her state licensing board in order to be able to practice after she took a leave of absence for depression. This case highlights one of the many reasons that people are afraid to seek mental health care. Telemedicine may be one solution to this and many other issues in mental health care.
Private telepsychiatry services like NowPsych, that do not use insurance, can provide mental health care without billing your insurance company. This means you can get your mental health evaluated by a board certified psychiatrist without it going on your insurance records.
Telemedicine also increases access to health care, particularly in geographic areas where shortages of physicians exist. While access is certainly one aspect of the problem in mental health, looking at the other barriers to care is critical. One issue that telemedicine addresses is the stigma of seeking mental health help, and carrying a mental health diagnosis. While addressing the fact that there is stigma at all is critical, telepsychiatry does at least lower the threshold for patients avoiding that stigma to seek care.
Telepsychiatry addresses stigma as a barrier to mental health care by eliminating many of the ways in which patients may feel at risk for being stigmatized. When someone seeks mental health services, they traditionally have to either ask for a referral from their physician, or look up a local therapist or psychiatrist and call to make an appointment. These both present obstacles to seeking care as many people feel uncomfortable asking for a referral, and also feel uncomfortable calling and explaining their need for care to a front office staff member on the phone. Telepsychiatry allows for direct scheduling (usually online) and consultation without the need to disclose information to a staff member on the phone.
Another barrier for those going to a physical office, there is the fear of running into someone you know or of someone seeing your vehicle at a location connected with mental health care. Telepsychiatry eliminates this risk by allowing you to see a psychiatrist from wherever you feel comfortable, even your car, living room, or office.
The fact that the stigma and risks of seeking psychiatric care exist need to be addressed, but while those issues still persist private fee-for-service telepsychiatry services can at least provide care to those who need it.