Benefits of Telehealth Visits for Mental Health Patients

As telemedicine proves to be an increasing method of clinical care, a recent JAMA study shows it could be more essential to preventative and follow-up care than previously understood.

Authored by Research Associate Andrew Wilcock, PhD, Professor of Health Care Policy Haiden Huskamp, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Care Policy Alisa Busch, PhD, Professor of Health Care Policy Sharon-Lise Normand, PhD, Professor of Health Care Policy Jose Zubizarreta, PhD, Professor of Health Care Policy Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH and co-authors, the study investigates the impact of telemedicine on care quality for patients with serious mental illness (SMI), such as schizophrenia and bipolar 1 disorder.

The study evaluated changes in mental health visits, drug adherence, hospital use, post-discharge follow-up visits, and patient mortality for SMI patients cared for by practices with higher telemedicine use during the first year of the pandemic compared with practices that relied mostly on in-person care.

The study showed that patients at practices with the highest telemedicine use had more mental health visits and better continuity of care. And while the increase in visits did not impact medication adherence or reductions in hospitalizations, the study suggests that telemedicine can be an effective way to improve patient-clinician engagement and continuity of care in a vulnerable patient population.