More than 25% of Americans using telepsychiatry during COVID-19 pandemic

By Joe Gramigna, MA | Healio

More than one-fourth of U.S. adults reported using telepsychiatry for mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to survey results.

“Existing research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of many Americans and created new potential barriers to care for those already living with chronic mental health conditions,” Kanchan Relwani, MD, vice president and head of medical affairs at Alkermes, told Healio Psychiatry. “The increase in use of telemedicine during this pandemic speaks to the way that technology is changing the way health care is delivered generally, but with this survey we sought to better understand how telepsychiatry specifically is being used to provide mental health care during this time.”

Alkermes partnered with The Harris Poll to conduct an online survey among 2,019 U.S. adults 18 years and older between May 27 and May 29. Specifically, the survey assessed participants’ telepsychiatry use before and during the pandemic, and it gauged their interest in future use of telepsychiatry after the pandemic.

Results showed 27% of participants were using telepsychiatry to access mental health care at the time of the survey. Of these individuals, 62% said they would not be able to receive necessary care without telepsychiatry services, and 67% said these services had helped them maintain their treatment regimen. Further, 74% of current telepsychiatry users expressed interest in continuing these services after the pandemic. Reasons cited for interest in continued use included the convenience of not driving to a provider’s office, enjoyment of using technology, the ability to encounter fewer people and the reduced cost.

Other findings included the following:

  • 65% of telepsychiatry users and 37% of non-users said they wished they had more information about how to access these services;
  • 25% of users cited a lack of privacy and concern that others in their home may overhear their conversation;
  • 24% preferred in-person treatment; and
  • 23% noted a lack of time to dedicate to telepsychiatry because of other commitments.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to disrupt health services, including mental health care, for many patients, telemedicine and telepsychiatry have shown promise in bridging potential gaps in care,” Relwani told Healio Psychiatry. “Approximately three in four of the telepsychiatry users surveyed were interested in using these services after the coronavirus and 67% of the telepsych users surveyed considered these services to have helped them maintain their treatment regimen — suggesting that there may be an opportunity to leverage these services to support continuity of care beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Read the full article at Healio.