We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the mental health of people, increasing the demand for mental health care. Given the fear of viral transmission through face to face consultations, the use of telehealth is considered an effective alternative to fulfil this growing demand. However, are people willing to use telehealth services for their mental health needs? If so, who’s using these services the most? Our recent paper explores these questions using Medicare data from Australia.
The three key findings are;
- During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic (early 2020), there was a 50% reduction in face to face consultations for mental health appointments, alongside an uptake of telehealth appointments of equal proportion.
- The use of both video-conference and telephone items was highest among young women between 25 to 34 years.
- There were considerable differences in the uptake of telehealth items across the states and territories. These differences are likely to reflect variation in digital infrastructure.
Overall, our study highlights that telehealth mental health services can be an important source of help for the increasingly stressed population during a pandemic. Moreover, it also underscores the importance of ongoing evaluation of telehealth mental health services to ensure that patients receiving telehealth still receive quality, cost-effective care.