Expanded Uses of Telehealth


Telehealth has many potential applications in the field of mental health, outside of directly connecting clients and therapists for the purpose of psychotherapy. In a study by Bears and colleagues (2018), researchers used telehealth to provide training for parents who had children with autism between the ages of 3 and 8. Parents used telehealth services to attend weekly training sessions with therapists over the course of 3 months, which taught parents about behavior and skill deficits commonly seen in children with autism. These training sessions also gave parents strategies for managing and reducing their child's disruptive behaviors. 
All parents who completed that satisfaction questionnaire stated that they were comfortable with the telehealth delivery of this training and would recommend the program to other parents. Additionally, none of the parents thought that taking the training virtually interfered in any way with the program, and no one reported issues using the telehealth equipment. All parents who completed the telehealth training program reported greater confidence in managing their child's behavior and preliminary efficacy showed significant improvement in multiple areas of problem behavior for the children. 
This study shows that there are many effective uses of teleheath services, including providing parent training programs that can benefit families. The participants in this study were all located in a rural area - areas where these training sessions are not normally offered. Telehealth allowed trained therapists to connect with families they otherwise could not reach. Telehealth has the ability to level the playing field for some of the most vulnerable clients, as people are no longer limited by their location, in terms of the services and experts they can access. Telehealth is likely to play a key role in improving overall health and lowering costs of care across the country.
Link to the study by Bearss et al (2018): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29170938 
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Helen Nichols, PhD, MSW
University of Maryland School of Social Work