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Majority of mental health appointments held through video conferencing

According to a recent study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, more than half (55%) of mental health appointments are now conducted remotely through videoconferencing rather than in-person visits. This form of care, known as telemedicine or telehealth, allows patients to receive care through technology such as cellphones, video chat, computers and tablets.

The study analyzed patient information 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 results showed that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly once the coronavirus pandemic began and became much more common than in-person visits. 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, 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 staggering increase of 2300% from its pre-pandemic level. The researchers noted that this trend is largely due to the ease with which mental health services can be adapted for virtual platforms compared to primary care and medical specialists’ care which often require in-person evaluations such as physical examinations.

This article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series, providing a brief look at statistical aspects of health issues. Additional information and relevant research can be found through the hyperlinks provided.

By Editor

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