By Holli Stayton, psychiatric nurse practitioner for Inpathy, the direct-to-consumer division of InSight Telepsychiatry
A 13-year-old girl diagnosed with depression is responding well to anti-depressant medication prescribed three months ago. She’s involved in numerous extra-curricular after-school activities, and her parents both work full time. A busy family schedule makes it challenging to book regular check-in appointments with her doctor during traditional office hours.
Concerned that inconsistent appointments will negatively impact their daughter’s progress, her parents opt to try direct-to-consumer (D2C) telepsychiatry—online therapy delivered through videoconferencing technology. The girl can now meet with a licensed child and adolescent provider on her family computer directly from the comfort of her own home following school and her extra-curricular activities—all before her nightly family dinner.
Meet the new face of behavioral health care that is fast becoming a viable—and often preferred—option for today’s children and teens. Conducted remotely through any computer, tablet or smartphone, D2C models offer an alternative for more convenient care amid current behavioral health challenges.
The demand for child and adolescent behavioral health care is soaring, and specialty provider shortages have reached severe levels throughout the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A simple math equation paints a grim and telling picture: In California, there are only 1,135 child and adolescent behavioral health providers to serve more than nine million children and teens—7 percent of who struggle with a behavioral health disorder severe enough to impact daily life.
Couple those stats with busy family schedules, and the access to care challenge for the nation’s children appears bleak. The good news is that telepsychiatry is proving to be an effective choice embraced by today’s youth and in some cases, a better option.
Here are five reasons why families are increasingly turning to telepsychiatry.
- Timely access and improved overall health. With provider shortages, it’s not uncommon to wait several months to get an appointment with a child and adolescent specialist. In the case of D2C telepsychiatry, appointments can be scheduled in just a few days. Consistent and timely access to telepsychiatrists allows children and adolescents to get the care they need sooner.
- Flexibility. Busy schedules can often be deterrents to children and adolescents getting the help they need. Traditional 9-to-5 workdays can create challenges for working parents as well as children involved in extra-curricular activities. Plus, appointments scheduled during school hours can create additional stressors for parents and young patients. D2C telepsychiatry solves this obstacle by offering flexible scheduling options during times that fit into a family’s lifestyle, such as after dinner or during weekends.
- Preferred communication mode. Today’s children and teens have grown up using videoconferencing technology like FaceTime and Skype, making telepsychiatry a natural fit for them. Interactions with telepsychiatrists can take place in a familiar setting where children feel safe and comfortable, leading to greater willingness to open up during sessions.
- Reduced stigma. Mental health stigma is still an unfortunate reality for today’s patients and can be especially difficult for children and teens. When services can be accessed from the comfort of home, children don’t have to worry about running into friends or classmates in a waiting room and feeling stigmatized for seeking help.
- More care options. Children and adolescent provider shortages can limit options available to parents. It can mean settling for the provider with the shortest wait time, traveling long distances or turning to professionals outside of the child and adolescent specialty. Because telepsychiatry is not bound by geography, families have greater choice in quality providers and the flexibility to book appointments with different providers until the very best fit is made for the child.
A new door is opening for child and adolescent behavioral health care, and the benefits are unlimited. With options like telepsychiatry becoming more widely available, families are no longer bound by the limitations of traditional health care and can take greater control of their children’s behavioral health needs—without the hassle. For today’s parents, telepsychiatry offers a positive step towards more consumer-friendly options to improve children and adolescent health.