Digital world, Digital Health
Digital mental health has gone from 5% of therapy contacts before the pandemic to close to 100% of contacts during the height of the pandemic. Should digital mental health remain the major vehicle for mental health contacts? Or should it return to the minor role it had before?
You should know my biases. My research is on developing, evaluating and implementing digital mental health care and all my clinical practice is and will remain virtual. I like virtual care because I get a
closer look at the client’s face, more than I ever can in face-to-face care. We build close therapeutic relationships. And I eat lunch at home, work in my sock feet, use my own bathroom and can make myself a coffee.
Digital care has many advantages over face-to-face. It spares clients the costs and time of travelling to care. There are no parking fees. Usually, there is less time that needs to be taken off work by the client or by a loved one. It is easier to collect and manipulate monitoring or outcome data in digital care. I can more easily digitally review sessions by trainees and it is less obtrusive for trainees to sit in on my sessions.
However, there are disadvantages to digital mental health care. A major public health deficit is the lack of high-speed internet in many rural and in virtually all remote communities in Canada. As well, internet service in Canada is outrageously expensive. Thus not everyone has connectivity.
There may be rare situations that face-to-face care or digital care is superior to the other. Some clients and therapists prefer face-to-face care and this is the main reason we should maintain options for clients/patients. Choice is important. Most digital care is a copy of face-to-face care. Much more can be done. There is potential for reaching many more people in need. But that will be the focus of another blog.
About the Author:
Dr. McGrath is a Clinical Psychologist and an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University. His extensive career has included being a clinician, researcher, administrator and social entrepreneur. He has won the Manning Principal Award for Innovation and a Governor General’s Award for Innovation for his work with Strongest Families. He is the founder and CEO of a new startup, 90Second Health which is developing a new way of delivering health information. To find out more about Dr.McGrath you can review his profile.