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By Keith Algozzine
It seems so long ago that businesses, schools, and non-essential services had to close their doors as we entered quarantine. Hospitals postponed elective surgeries, specific medical procedures, and appointments were halted or delayed until safety reigned. In the blink of an eye, everything and everyone had to adjust to the new normal. Doctors and patients transitioned from traditional face-to-face visits to telehealth services.
A growing demand for treatment
Now, as we enter a new post- COVID-19 era with newly identified variants coming and going, doctors and patients are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel; face-to-face interactions and in-office appointments are once again obtainable, and most importantly, can be done safely.
In the wake of shifting events, and as a direct result of the global pandemic, a rise in patients seeking behavioral health solutions has emerged. Psychologists reported increased treatments in 2021, compared to 2020, on Issues related to anxiety, depression, and trauma.
- Anxiety disorder treatment rose to 84% up from 74%
- Depressive disorder treatment rose to 72% up from 60%
- Trauma-related stress disorder treatment rose to 62% up from 50%
Other diagnoses with large increases included obsessive-compulsive disorders, sleep deprivation, and addiction infirmities.
The doctor will see you now—in the office or virtually
Prior to the pandemic’s assault on health care, wait times to see a doctor varied from weeks to months; these wait times are now even longer and indicate no signs of shortening any time soon. Lengthier wait times are a natural by-product of the surge in individuals seeking behavioral health care—the issue is compounded by industry-wide staffing shortages and a high burnout rate. Behavioral health care providers are now facing increased demands to facilitate more patients, operating with less bandwidth, and all with the same amount of scheduling time as before.
Patients have entered a new age stage of choices regarding their health care experience and treatment options. They can return to the pre-pandemic normal, which includes traveling to the doctor’s office, filling out form after form, spending time in a lobby with others, and waiting to hear their name called out to see the doctor. Or alternatively, a virtual route is now available.
Accessing a digital front door, which allows for immediate connection to a specialist, as well as online appointment scheduling, and electronic form completion, can all be carried out from the comforts of home, and are possibilities on-hand and ready for use. In this new reality, 96% of psychologists agreed or agreed strongly that the use of telehealth was useful as a therapeutic tool, with 93% agreeing that they would continue to offer their patients.
The benefits of a digital front door to behavioral health
By having an effective and engaging patient-centered platform such as a digital front door, patients and providers can navigate seamlessly past once common barriers including distance, scheduling conflicts, and experience an elevated health care treatment.
When it comes to behavioral health, the digital front door offers both patients and providers a frictionless and integrated experience. Streamlined workflows and convenient access can lead to personal care, successful treatment, and ultimately with a patient’s recovery.
Keith Algozzine is co-founder and CEO of UCM Digital Health. A board-certified Physician Assistant, he was formerly the Chief PA of Emergency Medicine for St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, NY, where he witnessed firsthand the challenges of the modern healthcare system. Keith was also part of the national ER startup management team for Pegasus Emergency Medicine. He represents UCM Digital Health on the American Telemedicine Association Accreditation Advisory Board and serves as an advisor to the Clinical Practice Guidelines Committees dealing with telemedicine considerations for urgent and emergency care.