April 23, 2021
Virtual care for mental health is here to stay
The uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on mental health. Over a third of adults are currently experiencing anxiety or depression—more than three times as many as early last year. And with access to behavioral health services already challenged before the pandemic, many patients have been turning to telemedicine for support. Health insurer Cigna found that while use of virtual care for both non-behavioral and behavioral healthcare services peaked in spring 2020, consumers have continued to use telemedicine for mental health needs, while demand for other virtual services tapered off. As of December, about 70 percent of behavioral health claims were for care rendered virtually, compared to just 20 percent across all other services.
The recent surge in demand for virtual mental health services has spurred an influx of investment into digital solutions. A recent Rock Health analysis found investments in the space have more than tripled since 2015. The injection of funds extends to both “generalist” companies (focused on a wide range of virtual services, including behavioral health) and “specialist” companies (focused solely on virtual behavioral health solutions). Virtual behavioral health not only provides much needed access to care, but patients also prefer the privacy and ready access offered by telemedicine. Moving forward, telemedicine may become the preferred alternative for patients seeking support for mental health needs.