The use of telemedicine or telehealth has become increasingly popular in the field of mental health, with more than half (55%) of appointments now conducted remotely. This form of care allows patients to receive treatment through technology such as cellphones, video chat, computers and tablets.
A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine analyzed patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs between January 1, 2019 and August 31, 2023, covering over 277 million outpatient visits by 9 million veterans. The study found that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly once the coronavirus pandemic began, becoming much more common than in-person visits. For primary care and mental health care, in-person appointments dropped from 81% to 23% in the first few months of the pandemic.
By spring 2023, phone-based care had returned to its pre-pandemic level but video-based care remained close to its peak during the pandemic, representing a 2,300% increase from its pre-pandemic level. Researchers noted that while primary care and medical specialists’ care often require in-person evaluations such as physical examinations, mental health services can be easily adapted to virtual platforms. As a result, mental health continues to be predominantly provided via telemedicine.
This article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series which offers a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research can be found through the hyperlinks provided.