Community / Faculty & Staff

Telemental Health Services Offer Glimpse Into the Future

Kevin Osten-Garner, Psy.D., is Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Division of Community Engagement at Adler University.

The Illinois Telehealth Law Forum series that begins today is exploring best practices for embracing the digital evolution of medical service delivery in Illinois. Whether you’re excited or skeptical, I encourage you to attend and consider this:

Mental health services are only as useful as access to them is available.  Telemental health services—seeing clients via video chat services similar to Skype—have the ability to greatly reduce this access gap for underserved populations, including rural communities, people working two or more jobs, parents who are both employed, people home-bound by illness or ability…the list goes on.

Additionally, with each generation, mobile communication from texting to video chat is now the normal channel for connection and support. As mental health service providers, adapting our services model to these norms allows for both greater flexibility and efficacy.

Clients can attend standing appointments with a clinician through video chat, allowing for both parties to attend the session without the stress of travel, arranging for child/elder care, or even leaving work. For clinicians, this model eliminates travel and the cost of maintaining a physical office. More importantly, emergency mental health services are available when they’re needed most—which is immediately. As an example: Today, services exist that allow youth experiencing suicidal thoughts to access to a therapist via texting and continue via phone or video chat.

Telehealth outcome studies to date have demonstrated clinical effectiveness and positive patient experience. Providers who do not adapt to the changing demands of the population for convenient and quality behavioral health services will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage with each passing year.

Technology is changing healthcare delivery on a daily basis. As such, here at Adler University, our Adler Community Health Services is developing its Telemental Health Services program to train upcoming generations of clinicians in ethical and professional practice with technology.  This will not only allow our students to positively impact mental health disparities in underserved communities, but also prepare them for business success over their career.

If you’re interested in exploring this emerging field of practice: Be sure to attend the Illinois Telehealth Law Forum series to learn more over the next couple months.