In.a recent presentation at Psych Congress, we discussed telemedicine. Little did we know, that only months later, it would be a necessity, vs. an option. Here are thoughts about how to get the most from your telehealth psychiatry appointments.
In this article in Psychology Today, we explore the "silver linings" of COVID and the impacts on telemedicine.
Telehealth is one way of providing health services and information via electronic communication or telecommunication. Dr. Sean Boileau shares insights into how COVID-19 has affected mental health care, and how telehealth is helping.
Dr. Sean Boileau serves as the Behavioral Health Services Director at APLA. He currently maintains an active role in a multidisciplinary group practice, as well as serving as an adjunct professor at Antioch University of Los Angeles. He earned his Doctor of Counseling Psychology degree with a focus on Multiculturalism and Diversity at Arizona State University. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on creating outreach programming and providing clinical services for members of the LGBT communities on campus. His specialty areas include ambivalence and poor motivation; internalized homophobia; low self-esteem and poor self-concept; military and combat trauma; and perfectionism and overachievement.
Jamie Aten: How would you personally describe the benefits of telehealth for mental health care?
Sean Boileau: To me, telehealth’s most salient benefit is its ability to foster consistency in patients’ lives amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. Routines and consistency of conversation with friendly faces cannot be understated at this time, and telehealth is allowing us to maintain these interactions remotely. With patients’ lives uprooted, everything can change—but their therapist serves as a comforting constant. Through telehealth, patients can maintain mental health care routines by seeing the same therapist, at the same time, week after week. Although not in-person, this routine is critically important.
We are currently seeing unprecedented levels of stress due to current events, resulting in a heightened need for mental health care. As a result, my practice has had an influx of new patients. In June of 2020, we saw 729 patients compared to 488 patients in June of 2019. Secure telehealth platforms—we use eClinicalWorks for example—have allowed us to support our increased patient population.
Another huge benefit is the rare ability to see inside patients’ homes, witness their daily routines, and assess their environment. This glimpse into patients’ lives often leads the visit, depending on what they are dealing with at home, and allows me to make observations I would not have seen in my office. The at-home aspect also saves patients from traveling to the visit, which can be anxiety-inducing. For some, telehealth visits make patients feel safe, and allow them to discuss their anxiety, without outside factors causing more worry. Due to the convenience and comfort factors, our no-show rates have dropped increasingly. Hopefully, a silver-lining here that continues after the pandemic is that the stigma around seeking mental health care is reduced, and people can seek help when they need it.