It’s no secret that more than one in five adults in America live with a mental illness, but what’s less known is that approximately four out of ten Americans who need mental healthcare are unable to access it . Another thing stopping individuals from receiving the mental healthcare they need is cost. With the demand for mental healthcare increasing, ensuring individuals can access and afford the mental healthcare they need is more important than ever. Mental healthcare providers have been desperately seeking new ways to improve access to treatment and lower costs of treatment. Encouraging and utilizing innovative technologies and practices in mental healthcare is one way these providers have been able to increase the amount of access to and quality of care . However, implementing innovative technologies and practices is still not fully understood in the mental health field, but that hasn’t stopped innovative technologies and practices in the mental health field from emerging. The future of mental healthcare is rapidly changing and advancing, with new digital and free ways to access the previously expensive and hard to reach mental healthcare now available. Innovation in mental healthcare is also improving due to technologies allowing providers to further their education and become educated on new treatment practices.
What is Innovation in Mental Health?
Within the last half-decade, some of the most exciting innovations in mental health have been introduced. Some of those innovations being smartphone apps, artificial intelligence, teletherapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation . You may be wondering what classifies something as an innovation in the mental health field, and the answer is an invention that helps improve previous practices in mental health, provides a new method of treatment, or combats current challenges in mental healthcare, like accessibility and cost. Innovative approaches in mental health not only help improve the quality of care by lowering costs and increasing accessibility, but it also helps spread awareness and empowers individuals to seek the treatment and help they need . With the increase of inventions and new approaches to treatment being adapted, innovation in mental health is only going to progress over the next decade.
Why is Innovation in Mental Health Important?
The innovations in mental healthcare brought by new technologies have helped to open a new frontier for improved treatment and expanded data collection. With the rising numbers of individuals experiencing mental health concerns in the U.S., and the decreasing quality of mental healthcare, these innovations have been required to manage the challenges clinicians and clients are facing today . Two of those major challenges being access to and cost of treatment. The introduction of technologies like teletherapy, webinars, and mobile mental health applications have helped in the decrease of those challenges by providing alternatives to traditional mental health treatments requiring expensive or in-person treatments. Innovations in mental health have also helped improve the quality of mental healthcare. This has been done through the allowance of easier and more expanded collaboration, deepened mental health awareness and education, and quicker communication . The future of mental health relies heavily on innovation; as our world grows and changes, how mental health is treated and accessed should also.
3 Examples of Innovation in Mental Health
Originally introduced in the 1990’s, but not growing in popularity until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, teletherapy is a form of mental health counseling that is facilitated over the phone or through the internet . With advancements in video conferencing software, such as doxy.me, more mental health providers are incorporating virtual formats of treatment into their practice. Teletherapy, being virtual, makes it an easy and convenient modality of mental healthcare for both the clinician and the client. Teletherapy also helps to reduce geographical barriers on access to care and can connect clients with clinicians who may be located far away . Not only does the innovation of teletherapy improve access to mental healthcare, but it additionally lowers the costs associated with it. With sessions being held virtually, the need for physical office spaces and the costs associated with the travel to get there are eliminated. Due to this, teletherapy offers a more cost-effective solution for both clinicians and clients.
You may be more familiar with webinars than teletherapy, as webinars have been a common practice in the field of healthcare for decades. However, the ways in which they are utilized has grown over the years. Today webinars are used to share knowledge, attract new clients, and provide regulatory updates . Other topics that mental healthcare webinars cover are new patient care strategies, population health updates, and furthered education for clinicians. Webinars offer a variety of benefits to both clients and clinicians. Since webinars are held via the internet, they help reduce geographical barriers that effect collaboration and innovation among clinicians; providing clients with deeply educated clinicians to provide them with the treatment plan needed for them . Webinars additionally lower costs for providers by allowing information to be shared with large groups of individuals, since there are no limitations due to room size. Webinars are an efficient tool that utilize innovative technology to improve mental healthcare.
3. Mental Health Apps
With the advancements in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, a new wave of mental healthcare has begun; this being mobile mental healthcare. Since mobile devices are easily transported, made to be utilized on the go, and can connect to wireless networks like desktops and laptops, the public, clinicians, and even researchers are able to gain a better understanding of mental health, receive/give treatment faster, and track plus store a client’s progress . Mobile mental health has been developed in the form of mental health apps such as, Headspace, Calm, and Adhere.ly . These mental health apps help individuals to relax, boost mood, practice therapeutic skills outside of therapy, see progress, and receive reminds about upcoming appointments and assigned therapy homework . Many mental health apps are free to download and use, like Adhere.ly. With the variety of mental health apps available today, and the low, if any, costs associated with their use, anyone has the potential to benefit from mental health apps. This is just one more example of how innovation is improving the field of mental healthcare.
Barriers to accessing care and high costs associated with care, make meeting the rising demands in mental healthcare needs extremely difficult. Luckily, with waves of new inventions in technology and in the mental health field, some of these challenges have an opportunity to be overcome. Innovations in mental healthcare like teletherapy, webinars, and mobile mental health applications, have been introduced over the last decade and have incited real change in the field. Moving forward, it’s important that innovations in mental health keep being introduced and adapted to prevent future barriers in mental healthcare from arising and to keep previous challenges at bay.
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