The use of telemedicine or telehealth in mental health appointments has increased significantly, with more than half (55 percent) of all appointments now being conducted remotely through videoconferencing rather than in-person visits. A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine analyzed patient information from the Department of Veterans Affairs from January 1, 2019, through August 31, 2023, covering over 277 million outpatient visits by 9 million veterans.
The researchers found that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly once the coronavirus pandemic began, becoming much more common than in-person visits. For primary care and mental health care, in-person appointments dropped from 81 percent to 23 percent in the first few months of the pandemic. By spring 2023, phone-based care had returned to its pre-pandemic level, but video-based care had remained close to its peak during the pandemic, representing a 2,300 percent increase from its pre-pandemic level.
The majority of mental health care continues to be provided via telemedicine due to its ease of adaptation compared to primary care and medical specialists’ care which often require in-person evaluations such as physical examinations. The article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series and offers additional information and relevant research through hyperlinks provided.