Growth in Telehealth for Mental Health Patients Adapting to COVID-19 Pandemic

New research from the American Medical Association shows that a growing number of physicians are using videoconferencing to provide patient visits as the industry continues to adjust to life after the coronavirus pandemic.

The AMA Physician Practice Benchmark Survey published this month found that 70.3% of physicians worked in practices that used videoconferencing to provide patient visits in September of 2020. That number was just 14.3% in September of 2018.

Psychiatrists had among the highest rates of using telehealth to diagnose or treat patients at nearly 83%. Family or general practice physicians and pediatricians also had relatively high rates at around 72%.


Psychiatrists “clearly had the highest weekly use of remote visits with patients,” with 36.9% of visits conducted via videoconferencing and 29% of visits conducted via phone, according to the survey.

The survey results suggest that telehealth was used to treat a diverse set of patients with a variety of needs.

In 2020, 58% of physicians said their practices used telehealth to diagnose or treat patients, 59.2% to manage patients with chronic disease and just over 50% to provide care to patients with acute disease. Preventive care, however, came in at only 34.3%


Industry-wide, 70.3% of physicians said they were in a practice that used videoconferencing with patients and nearly 60% had personally conducted a videoconferencing visit in the week before. Slightly fewer physicians (66.6% and 56.4%, respectively) said the same about telephone visits, proof that people would rather experience something slightly more personal and connect on a deeper level when tending to their mental health needs.

Earlier this year, a survey conducted by market research company Propeller Insights on behalf of DrFirst found that after the pandemic forced patients to receive mental health services online, 84% of respondents said they would like to continue receiving virtual behavioral health care post-pandemic.

Participants in that study noted they liked not having to travel to a therapist’s office to receive assistance, along with reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and being more comfortable opening up about personal issues within the privacy of their homes.

“For people with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, the benefits of telehealth are more than simple conveniences and may make the difference for getting care at all,” Colin Banas, the chief medical officer for DrFirst, said in a news release at the time of the survey’s release.

The AMA has conducted Physician Practice Benchmark Surveys since 2012. Policy Research Perspective reports, based on the surveys, provide detailed analysis of the data.

Written by Patrick Filbin

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