Shift to Teletherapy Increases Access For Millions

August 25, 2021
Stuart Lustig

Stuart Lustig, MD, national medical executive for behavioral health, Cigna

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health. A Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 found that many adults reported difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

But the stay-at-home orders made seeking in-person mental health treatment almost impossible. As a result, teletherapy saw a sharp increase. Services like Ginger, which offers text-based teletherapy and psychiatry, reported a 302 percent increase in usage by September 2020, compared to pre-COVID averages. Doctors on Demand also reported a 50 percent increase in new teletherapy patients.

“When I think of my 20-plus years in the field of child psychiatry, I think of some of the major changes our field has undergone in recent decades. I would say that the shift to digital is probably one of the most tectonically significant because it impacts millions and millions of people,” says Stuart Lustig, MD, national medical executive for behavioral health at Cigna,

In recent years, there has been an explosion of digital tools to support and treat mental health conditions. For example, it’s estimated there are anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 self-help apps on the market. While self-help or text-based therapy may give some clinicians pause, studies have shown, these programs can be efficacious.

A systematic review of studies evaluating the usefulness of mobile health apps using basic principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy found half of the studies aimed to treat depression had generally positive results.

Learn more: Creating a Digital-First Approach to Behavioral Healthcare

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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