The 2008 APA Psychology Health Service Provider Survey (APA 2010) showed that the use of technology for psychotherapy, counseling, consulting and supervision tripled among practicing psychologists between 2000 and 2008.
Approximately 10 percent of that group reported that they used either telephone or email for direct health services once weekly or more in 2008. Videoconferencing increased from 2 percent to 10 percent. These estimates are based on a sample size of 1,226 providers (APA 2010).
What does this mean?
Group practices, small agencies, clinics and hospitals are cutting costs, serving more patients and responding to consumer demand for more access. Professionals are regularly being asked to communicate in both email and text messaging by clients. Professional adoption of technology for service delivery is growing rapidly.
SAMHSA has published an 8-point plan that includes the use of technology to address current mental health needs in the U.S. But are professionals ready for such service without training? JAMA recently published an article reporting legal and ethical problems with physician use of social networking. While many professionals are likely to be well intentioned, they may simply not be aware of the mistakes they are making or the consumers they are harming.
This recent Wall Street Journal article comments on training professionals to use the electronic health record, and sheds light on the issue of training:
Of those groups using electronic records, 53% said they either “mildly” or “severely” underestimated the time needed to train people to use the systems. Among the comments, some from physicians, received by MGMA: “Doctors felt like they didn’t need much training… However, when they went live they wished they had trained for more scenarios.”
Learning by correcting our own mistakes with vulnerable mental health patients is far from best practice. We at TMHI support the ethical mandate that prior to delivering care, professionals should receive specialized training in telehealth to gain an understanding and practice of clinical care, legal and ethical issues.
What do you think? Please leave your comments below.