Availability of Mental Telehealth Services Varies by Geography, Facility

No differences in availability seen based on diagnosis of patient-level characteristics

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 7, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Geographic and facility factors influence the availability of mental telehealth services, according to a study published online Feb. 2 in JAMA Health Forum.

Jonathan Cantor, Ph.D., from the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and colleagues quantified availability, wait times, and service features of telehealth for major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia throughout the United States. The analysis included a secret shopper survey of 1,221 mental health treatment facilities (MHTFs) throughout all U.S. states except Hawaii from December 2022 to March 2023.

The researchers found that 87 percent of facilities were accepting new patients and 80 percent reported offering telehealth, with availability not differing by clinical condition. Among those offering telehealth services, 97 percent reported availability of counseling services, 77 percent medication management, and 69 percent diagnostic services. Telehealth was more likely to be offered at private for-profit (adjusted odds ratio, 1.75) and private nonprofit (adjusted odds ratio, 2.20) facilities. The median wait time for a first telehealth appointment was 14 days (range, four to 75 days).

“These findings suggest that there are significant differences in the availability of telehealth appointments by location of MHTFs across the United States, but few differences based on the client-caller’s demographic characteristics or mental health condition,” the authors write. 

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