Telehealth for mental healthcare, a scalable solution

Telehealth for mental healthcare, a scalable solution

Telehealth for mental healthcare makes a lot of sense since mental health care is generally harder to access than other health services, due to a shortage of qualified mental health providers and coverage limits.  

A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) titled “Increasing access to behavioural health care through technology” suggests that to be able to reach a larger amount of people, organisations should consider the use of telehealth for mental healthcare.

Teleahealth for mental healthcare

The report mentions that broadly speaking, telehealth for mental health can take two forms:  

  • A caregiver such as a nurse or social worker can use telehealth technology to conduct a distance-based consultation with a mental health specialist to discuss how to handle a patient’s mental health needs
  • A patient can participate in a videoconference session with a mental health specialist

The value telehealth for mental healthcare, was identified by HRSA safety net providers in terms of potential cost savings, efficiency, and expanded access to services. In general the HRSA report mentions the five main benefits of using telehealth tools for mental healthcare:

Improved care delivery

  • Provide a more efficient patient care when they combine patient data with best practices in order to make care decisions. For example, in mental health, clinicians can review data and identify early warning signs for behavioral health concerns
  • Facilitate the access, use and sharing of data and it supports the health system’s move toward collaborative and integrated approaches by strengthening relationships within a team and across agencies
  • The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model of care recognizes the value of care coordination supported by wireless technology
  • Clinics can gain expanded access to experts, like mental health specialists, residing outside the local community. Telehealth can also ease the task of convening consultation sessions between primary care clinicians and behavioral health specialists

Expanded staff capacity

  • Offer care providers more flexibility to deliver health care while on-the-go or from different locations—expanding the clinic’s service offerings
  • Facilitates the hire of part-time, specialized staff who work remotely for multiple clinics
  • Telehealth for mental health can be added to existing clinic operations. Thus, putting a team together is a matter of figuring how to make it work within the context of existing staff and budgets

Enhanced training opportunities

  • Conduct trainings for staff when sessions are devoted to sharing of insights and best practices. These trainings can elevate expertise within an agency and across multiple providers

Cost savings

  • Reduces the cost of care delivery. For example, if a patient suffers a relapse, telehealth enables a care providers to deliver counseling and intervention services quickly through teleconferencing sessions

Patient acceptance and engagement

  • Works around patient fears over accessing services at a certain clinic or neighborhood. Health center patients are frequently reported to be either unable or unwilling to seek services outside of their communities
  • Patient acceptance rates for telehealth in mental health are generally high. One HRSA grantee was surprised over one of their early adopters: a psychiatric patient with a paranoid belief that TV was speaking to him. Surely, telehealth would not work with him. However, the patient successfully participated in a session, and, at one point, looked over to his sister with a grin and said: “see, the television does talk to me.”
  • Patient portals are meeting a demand since people are increasingly turning to search engines to learn about their health concerns prior to accessing care. When patients go online, providers need to be there. Some portals provide patients with access to their health data so that they can take an active role in their treatment

The Monsenso mHealth solution

The Monsenso mHealth solution for mental healthcare supports the use of telehealth technology in the remote treatment of patients suffering from mental illness. Moreover, the report released by the HRSA mentions five main benefits that the use of telehealth brings to mental health care, and the Monsenso mHealth offers all these benefits.

Improved care delivery

With help of the patient’s smartphone, the Monsenso mHealth platform utilizes advanced technology to collect and analyze data on a patient’s behavior. This collection and analysis of data gives the clinician a deep insight into the relationships between the patient’s behavior and the illness.

Expanded staff capacity

The Monsenso mHealth solution enables clinicians to focus on patients who need immediate attention by notifying clinicians automatically if there are any patients who present any triggers or early warning signs.

Enhanced training opportunities

The information on the clinical web portal can be accessed and shared by multiple clinicians even if they are not based in the same geographical location.

Cost savings

The smartphone application enables patients to fill out self-assessments on a daily basis letting the clinicians know how they feel. This information as well as the information collected through the smartphone’s sensors can help clinicians intervene at an early stage, before the patient needs hospitalization.

Patient acceptance and engagement

The patient-oriented clinical evaluations by Monsenso have shown that the compliance rate is very high (87% to 93%), the solution is very useful and extremely usable by patients and clinicians, it helps patients to manage their illness better, and it helps clinicians offer a better treatment


[1] Increasing access to behavioral health care through technology. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (2013, February).

Transforming health and social care with digital technology

Transforming health and social care with digital technology

Earlier this year, Deloitte published a report titled “Connected Health: How Digital technology is transforming health and social care.” The information on this blog post has been obtained from this report.

Connected health or technology-enabled care (TEC) is the collective term used for telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, mHealth, digital health, and eHealth services. TEC is now seen as a fundamental part of the solution to solve many healthcare challenges. TEC helps people self-manage their health and well-being, alert healthcare professionals in case of any changes in an individual’s condition and support medication adherence. It also helps clinicians and care providers deliver more efficient and cost-effective care.

Digital technology is advancing exponentially, and its cost is becoming more and more affordable. At the same time, the demand for more cost-effective healthcare is rising. Now more than ever, healthcare authorities need to adopt new technologies to help meet these challenges.

An aging population

In the UK, as in other parts of the world, the population is increasing, and people are living longer. These two factors, in addition to a rise in chronic conditions, present new healthcare challenges.

Over 25% of the population in the UK are affected by a chronic condition, and an increasing number have multiple conditions. It has been appraised that people with long-term conditions use up to 50% of all GP appointments and 70% of days spent in hospital beds. It has also been estimated that their care absorbs 70% of hospital and primary care budgets in England.

Use of mobile devices is increasing amongst all age groups

Although ownership of smartphones and tablets is growing rapidly, the older population, who are the largest users of health and social care services, hadn’t adopted this technology until now. However, in 2014, baby boomers generated the fastest year-on-year growth in smartphone penetration.

Additionally, smartphone owners are encouraged to exercise, lose weight and improve their health, with the help of numerous mobile health apps.

Other market drivers

The demand for apps and wearable devices is also being driven by an increased focus on personalised care. Large pharmaceutical companies are now using apps and wearables to gather valuable health-related patient data, support their research, and provide an holistic service to patients.

In 2014, the leading pharmaceutical companies had an increase of 63 % in unique apps compared to 2013. In just one year, the total number of downloads of pharmaceutical apps increased by 197% as shown in Figure 1. These apps deliver education and training, can titrate medication and monitor compliance.

Figure 1. The number of apps published by leading pharmaceutical companies, 2013 and 2014.

Number of apps published by pharmaceutical companies

There has also been an increase in on-line patient communities, using social media as a platform to exchange experiences with patients and carers.

Increasing patient trust in health apps

There is strong evidence that patients are now more than ever concerned about self-care, and they are interested in boosting their health and well-being. In addition to this, health technology companies are working to improve the quality of apps, increase user confidence and trust, and launch informed decision-making in app selection for health professionals, patients and the public.

Agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or NHS Choices and its NHS Health Apps Library have developed criteria that judge apps for safety and technical proficiency. For example, for apps to be included on the NHS Choices search website, which in early 2015 lists around 150 apps, they must be reviewed by a technical team (testing relevance, legal compliance and data protection), then by a clinical team (to test scientific rigour).

PatientView is an independent organisation that has developed a systematic method of appraising health apps. Until April 2015, there were 363 apps recommended for the Apple platform and 236 for Android, with smaller numbers recommended for use on other platforms.

In 2014, PatientView undertook a survey of 1,130 patient group members to identify what people want from health apps as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. What do patients and carers want from health apps?

What patients and carers want from a health app

Connected Health: How Digital technology is transforming health and social care. Deloitte Health.