A recent study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine has revealed that over half of mental health appointments (55%) are now conducted remotely, primarily through video conferencing rather than in-person visits. This form of care is known as telemedicine or telehealth and allows patients to receive care through technology such as cell phones, video chat, computers, and tablets.

The research analyzed patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs from January 1, 2019 to August 31, 2023, covering over 277 million outpatient visits by 9 million veterans. The study found that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly when the coronavirus pandemic began. For primary care and mental health care, in-person appointments dropped from 81% to 23% in the first few months of the pandemic.

By spring 2023, telephone care had returned to pre-pandemic levels but video-based care remained near its peak during the pandemic, with a 2,300% increase from pre-pandemic levels. The researchers noted that the majority of mental health care is still delivered via telemedicine due to its ease of adapting to virtual platforms compared to primary care and specialist care which often require in-person assessments such as physical examinations.

This article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series which provides a brief overview of the statistical side of health issues. Additional information and relevant research can be found through the hyperlinks provided.

By Editor

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