Due in part to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, the telehealth industry has grown exponentially this year. A recent report indicates that between May 2019 and May 2020, telehealth-related care increased by 5,680%. It goes on to say that “telehealth will represent a significant share of healthcare services in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.” The use of telehealth for mental health care also rose, with mental health comprising almost 40% of all diagnoses in May 2020. Even as telehealth usage has grown to meet healthcare needs during the pandemic, myths remain about using telehealth for mental health care. However, as the technology advances and becomes more widely adopted, these five misconceptions no longer hold true.
Myth #1: Online care is not confidential.
At its core, telehealth is a healthcare service. In the same way that a hospital or counseling center would keep patient data secure, telehealth services prioritize security and encryption to keep your information private.
“Online care can actually be more confidential than in person therapy when done correctly,” said Dr. Alan Dennington, chief medical officer for TimelyMD. “Telehealth providers that utilize HIPAA compliant technology, like we do at TimelyMD, create a video environment that uses encryption in its video services to protect electronic information as it is transmitted by video. Also, since you can complete a virtual visit from your home or in a private space that you choose, you’re able to privately and confidentially access the care that you need.”
Myth #2: Online care is complicated.
You might be used to filling out a lot of paperwork the first time you visit a doctor’s office. This is not the case with telehealth. Telehealth services like TimelyMD only require basic contact information to create a profile. Then, you’re ready to start your visit. A mental health professional will ask questions to establish background before your session begins, but getting started with a virtual visit through telehealth is quick and easy. With on-demand services like TimelyMD’s TalkNow, there is little to no wait time to meet with a provider.
“Getting mental health support online is as easy as using your favorite store’s app on your phone,” said Dr. Dennington. “You simply log on, set up an account, select a provider and select when you’d like to have your visit. An internet-enabled device like a smartphone or a computer with a camera and a microphone is all you need to access care.
“A similar misconception is that mental health care is just about big, complex or complicated issues. This is not the case. When you need someone to talk to about anything — like relationships, test anxiety, or roommate issues — support is just a few clicks away.”
Myth #3: You must talk to a counselor in-person before you can use telehealth.
Since telehealth is a virtual service, you do not have to speak to a mental health professional in person to be cleared to use the technology. In the case of TimelyMD, all eligible students immediately gain access to mental health services that are available anytime, anywhere.
Myth #4: Services are only available during business hours.
The internet never sleeps, and neither does the need for mental health services. TimelyMD offers 24/7/365, on-demand mental health care. The need for emotional support can arise at any time of day. In response, telehealth enables services to extend beyond the traditional hours of an on-campus counseling center.
“With 24/7 access to mental health resources, students can still access a supportive, knowledgeable provider even when the counseling center is closed,” said Dr. Jan Hall, executive director of mental health for TimelyMD.
Myth #5: It’s embarrassing to seek care online.
Not all students are comfortable seeking mental health care in person. Despite significant progress in recent years to normalize mental health care, there remains a stigma for some students to walk into a counseling center or clinic. As such, virtual care that can be accessed at home or in a residence hall helps to remove that stigma. Stress, anxiety and depression are common issues experienced by college students. So, it’s critical that mental health care is flexible and adaptable to meet students whenever and wherever they need it.
“Telehealth lowers the barrier to entry for healthcare,” said Dr. Dennington. “A student who may access care via telehealth may not otherwise seek care. Telehealth meets students where they are to provide care when and where they need it.”
Providing Students with the Care They Want and Need
It’s clear that college students are ready to use telehealth as a mental health resource. In a recent study of college students by TimelyMD, 75% of students said they’re open to utilizing telehealth to receive mental health care. Furthermore, 20% of students shared that they “definitely would” consider using telehealth for mental health support. Of the students who had previously used telehealth services, 65% reported that they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their experiences using telehealth.
Care delivered through telehealth is fast, easy and efficient. It eliminates wait times, reduces the stigma of seeking care and is available in the moment that a student needs care. Telehealth helps to eliminate the days or weeks that many students typically have to wait for an on-campus counseling center appointment. With telehealth, the appointment is when and where they need it.
Contact TimelyMD to learn how mental health care delivered through telehealth can make a difference in the lives of your students.