A recent study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine has revealed that more than half of mental health appointments (55%) are now conducted remotely, primarily through video conferencing rather than in-person visits. This form of care, known as telemedicine or telehealth, allows patients to receive care through technology such as cellphones, video chat, computers, and tablets.
The study analyzed patient information from the Department of Veterans Affairs from January 1, 2019 through August 31, 2023 covering over 277 million outpatient visits by 9 million veterans. It found that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly once the coronavirus pandemic began and became 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 had remained close to its peak during the pandemic representing a 2300% increase from its pre-pandemic level. The researchers noted that most mental health care continues to be provided via telemedicine because it is easier to adapt mental health services to virtual platforms as compared to primary care and medical specialists’ care which often require in-person evaluations such as physical examinations.
This article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series offering a brief look at statistical aspects of health issues. Additional information and relevant research can be found through the hyperlinks provided.