Mental health care can be difficult to access due to costs and stigma. It is even harder to reach if you live in a rural area. Meridian Health Services in Indiana is using technology to tackle mental health treatment via online remote psychiatry. An NPR article on Meridian Health’s new program notes the importance of timely mental health treatment: “Geographic isolation exacerbates a vicious cycle. A shortage of doctors means patients can’t get timely care. The health system atrophies, and doctor recruitment gets even tougher.”
The telemedicine system allows patients to meet at a medical office to have their vitals taken and then sit down at a computer with a psychiatric professional for a video conference therapy session. Meridian says the benefits are two-fold: it allows patients to have quick access to mental health treatment, and it allows Meridian to employ doctors even if they do not live in the same areas as their patients. Patients even seem to be embracing the change. Many report that online sessions feel less confrontational than in-person meetings and allow them to express things they wouldn’t dare say face to face.
With a shortage of psychiatrists in the state and addiction and depression rates on the rise, telemedicine could be the key to ensuring an adequate treatment in even the most remote areas of the country.