The potential of using telehealth in mental health care
Helena Blažinćić, Student of Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health, focused her Master Thesis to study the potential of using telehealth in mental health care.
Nowadays healthcare expenditures have surpassed its income (European Commission, 2020). At the same time, healthcare systems worldwide have been struggling with the increase of mental health problems occurrence among children and adolescents in the past decade. Same trend is noticed in the European WHO region as well. Available statistics are confirming that anxiety and depression disorders are accounted as top five causes of the overall disease burden, and suicide is the leading cause of death among adolescents in between age 10–19 years. Young people who are disadvantaged (e.g., minorities, children from families with low income, children without proper parental care) are particularly affected (World Health Organization, 2021; World Health Organization, 2020).
Digital transformation has been seen as an opportunity to accelerate healthcare performance by improving the quality of care and lowering cost within the industry in the future (Herrmann, et al., 2018). With the rise of paperless healthcare and more digital approach (e.g., telehealth), on-demand virtual urgent care, virtual office visits, near-virtual office visits, virtual home health services and tech-enabled home medication administration have allowed patients to manage their health in a much better and efficient way (Bestsennyy, Gilbert, Harris, & Rost, 2021). Some European regions have already started with initiatives that could offer ubiquitous service for everyone in order to serve population with mental health disorders, via digital tools (Interreg North-West Europe, 2019). During COVID-19 pandemic is has also been noticed that telehealth had penetration level within psychiatry of 50% and substance use treatment of 30% – which is more than within other specialties (Bestsennyy, Gilbert, Harris, & Rost, 2021). Given that the global cost of mental health services by 2030 is assumed to be almost $6 trillion, implementation of simple technologies comes in hand (World Health Organization, 2020). This confirms that the time of telehealth within mental health care has come.
However, it is important to gain knowledge from the perspective of clients and patients, and in addition form the healthcare personnel before making decisions in clinical work. The purpose of this study was to investigate potential of using telehealth as supportive treatment tools in mental health, the benefits of virtual clinics in general, to find which mental health care treatment procedures can be transferred online, to find out the top needs set by patient, parent/caregiver, and healthcare provider (HCP) and determine feasibility and usability of such (digital) service.
The empirical data was collected with semi structured interviews among patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers throughout week 43 in October 2021 at the Neuropsychiatric hospital “Dr. Ivan Barbot Popovača”, in Croatia.
The results confirmed there is a vast need and opportunity to use digital tools (e.g., telehealth and supportive tools as trackers or reminders, educational components etc.) among respondents; especially when they live remotely or are of lower economic status.
Proposal for further research is to investigate what type of experience and user interface individuals in need would love to see in order to use virtual mental health clinic tool in their daily routine.
Here is link this thesis: https://www.theseus.fi/handle/10024/751761
Helena Blazincic, Student of Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health, Savonia UAS
Marja-Liisa Rissanen, Principal Lecturer, Master School, Savonia UAS
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