THURSDAY Sept. 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Greater county-level use of remote mental health visits is associated with a modest increase in contact with outpatient specialty mental health professionals and greater likelihood of follow-up after hospitalization among Medicare beneficiaries with severe mental illness, according to a study recently published in Open JAMA Network.
Bill Wang of Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues assessed whether greater use of telemedicine in a non-metro county is associated with quality measures for mental health care, including care utilization specialists and medication compliance. The analysis included a sample of paid health insurance claims for 118,170 beneficiaries with schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders and/or bipolar I disorder in 2,916 nonmetropolitan counties from 2010 to 2018.
Researchers found that the fraction of counties that had high use of telemental health services increased from 2% in 2010 to 17% in 2018. There were 1.08 telemental health service visits per patient in 2018 in the counties with high telemental health. Patients in high-use counties were 1.2 percentage points (8.0% relative increase) more likely to have a minimum number of specialist mental health service visits, 13.7 percentage points (relative increase 6.5%) more likely to have an outpatient follow-up within seven days of a mental health hospitalization, and 0.47 percentage points (7.6% relative increase) more likely to be hospitalized within year compared to the county’s lack of telemental health care. There was no association between the use of telemental health services and changes in medication adherence.
“Elementary telehealth service has largely replaced in-person visits in communities that have adopted it,” the authors write.
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