Accessing mental health care via telehealth boomed during the pandemic, and it continues to be a valuable resource for patients.
However, it could still be tough to find, depending on the clinics available in your area, new research finds.
"We found considerable variation in the types of services telehealth offered by mental health clinics across the U.S.," said study author Jonathan Cantor, a policy researcher at RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.
His team published its findings, based on a "secret shopper" study, in the Friday issue of JAMA Health Forum.
Between late 2022 and March 2023, Cantor and his colleagues tried phoning more than 1,900 outpatient mental health treatment facilities treating adults across the United States.
For more than 500 clinics called, the researchers failed to reach anyone.
"The fact that we could not reach anyone at 1 in 5 facilities suggests that many people may have trouble reaching a clinic to inquire about mental health care," Cantor noted in a RAND news release.
Of the remaining 1,404 clinics that did have someone respond to the "secret shopper" queries, 87% said they were accepting new patients and 80% said they offered telehealth services.
Those services varied in terms of how they were offered. For example, about half of clinics offering telehealth said it was available via video appointments only, 5% said it was only offered via audio appointments, and 47% said they were open for both video and phone appointments.
Private clinics were twice as likely to offer telehealth services compared to public facilities, the study found.
Among clinics that offered telehealth, counseling services for mental health issues were most common: 97% of clinics offered such services, the report found.
"Medication management" telehealth was offered in 77% of cases, and 69% offered diagnostic services, according to the researchers.
"On the positive side, we observed no significant differences in the availability of telehealth services based on the caller's stated mental health condition or perceived race and ethnicity," Cantor said.
There's more on telehealth at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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