telehealth training, telehealth video conferencing, phone therapy, telephone telehealthFollowing the unprecedented uptake of telehealth approaches to behavioral health, satisfaction studies of telehealth video conferencing, telephone therapy, or phone therapy are now surfacing in the telebehavioral health literature. A study released in February 2021 examined mental health providers’ experience and attitudes towards the use of telepsychiatry and telehealth video conferencing. It reported the findings of an online survey of satisfaction completed by 819 mental health care providers from 18 different hospitals and community centers across the United States. Mental healthcare providers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and nurse practitioners, social workers, therapists, mental health counselors, and residents, participated by anonymously completing the survey.

The use of telehealth video conferencing phone therapy, the no-show rate for therapy appointments, concerns about proper access to technology, and telehealth training for providers and patients are the main topics discussed in this study. Overall, the study results were good as 73% of providers using telehealth video conferencing and 66% using the phone therapy rated their experience as excellent or good. Both parties were at an advantage with 77% flexible scheduling or rescheduling and 69% timely starting. However, there were some challenges reported by the health care personnel: 52% of patients were unable to use the telehealth video conferencing devices properly, 46% of patients felt a lack of closeness or connection, and 39% faced technical problems.

“Concerns were raised about technical difficulties, and providers suggested administering specific, tailored support services for telepsychiatry-providing clinicians and facilitating clinicians’ remote access and ability to edit the patients’ medical records, thus smoothing the workflow and ensuring proper reimbursement from payers.” The author continued, “Limited patient or provider access to technology, lack of proper technical training, and lack of specialized technical assistance in cases of technical need arose as potential barriers to telepsychiatry implementation and will need to be addressed by providers, payers, and regulators. With the currently available technology allowing for encrypted, safe, and private communications, telehealth video conferencing should be preferred over telephone-based teletherapy whenever possible.”

In total, 64% of the respondents showed a positive attitude toward telepsychiatry, finding it useful and easy to use, and want to continue using telehealth for at least 25% of their caseload after the COVID-19 pandemic. Saving time by starting therapy on time and showing up for the appointment were reported as some advantages of telehealth in the study. However, there are still concerns about proper access to technology that needs to be addressed and providers’ and patients’ telehealth training to deliver better healthcare.

Reference

Guinart, D., Marcy, P., Hauser, M., Dwyer, M., & Kane, J. M. (2021). Mental Health Care Providers’ Attitudes Toward Telepsychiatry: A Systemwide, Multisite Survey During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), appips202000441. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.202000441

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