Rapid expansion of direct-to-consumer telemental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: A case series

BACKGROUND: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic brought many challenges to patient care delivery. The need for social distancing and relaxing of federal and state telemental health regulations paved the way for widespread adoption of direct-to-consumer (DTC) ambulatory mental health video visits.

METHODS: We present cases that demonstrate the use of video visits across 6 clinical areas, each serving a unique population of patients, in a large behavioral health system. The benefits and limitations of this modality are illustrated in children, adults, and older adults with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, intellectual disability, substance use disorders, neurocognitive disorders, and schizophrenia.

RESULTS: Although telephone visits were acceptable and necessary to serve some patients, there are many advantages to video visits in providing best patient care. Education and support for telemental health—delivered to both patients and clinicians—is critical to the success of the DTC model.

CONCLUSIONS: DTC telemental health is a widespread clinical tool used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because this model has many strengths and advantages compared with traditional telemental health delivered in a clinic, regulators and insurers should be open to its continued use postpandemic when clinically appropriate.

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