The COVID-19 pandemic is driving enormous demand for virtual mental health care services.
Teletherapy providers have seen record uptake since March, and the need for mental health support appears to be growing as patients confront the stress of the pandemic and social crises.
Ginger, which offers text-based mental health coaching, teletherapy and psychiatry, reports that utilization rates rose to their highest level ever in the last week of September. Usage of Ginger’s text-based mental health coaching was up 159%, and virtual therapy and psychiatry was up 302% compared to pre-COVID-19 averages, the company reported.
Ginger’s psychiatrists have written 163% more prescriptions for psychotropic drugs, primarily for antidepressants, as compared to pre-COVID-19 averages.
Telehealth provider Doctor On Demand reports that new patients seeking teletherapy are at record levels: up over 50% in the past six weeks and even higher than the peak of COVID-19-related anxiety in March and April.
Teladoc Health released findings this week that indicate a wider cross-segment of the population is addressing mental health through virtual care.
There has been growth in mental health services across the board, but there has been a notable increase in virtual visits among groups who have not been known for embracing mental health care in the past, namely men, people who use Medicaid and patients over the age of 65, the telehealth giant reported.
Healthcare experts say the persistent issues of 2020—including the economic, health, environmental and societal crises—are impacting the mental health of Americans.
“The overlapping social issues we’ve been experiencing, and the accompanying uncertainties have led to steady rises in people reaching out and seeking mental health support like we’ve never seen before,” said Gustavo Kinrys, M.D. vice president of Teladoc mental health, in a statement.
“In parallel with this surging need, we’re witnessing growing comfort with virtual care, especially among older adults, giving many individuals who may not have sought mental health care in the past an extraordinary opportunity to put themselves on the right path to better health.”
Total mental health virtual care visits for men have been outpacing women both in year-over-year growth and 2020 monthly growth, up 79% since January versus 75% for women, Teladoc reported.
In addition, while Generation Z patients account for 14% of total mental health visits, all age groups have been seeking mental health care at an increased rate. Especially notable are patients over 65, who have seen their visits increase 16% since June, according to Teladoc.
A previously underserved demographic for mental health—the Medicaid population—is seeing significant growth, with the number of Medicaid members with access to Teladoc mental health telemedicine services more than doubling year over year.
With increased demand, there also was a significant upswing in behavioral health investment in the past six months. In the first half of 2020, digital behavioral health startups scored $588 million, roughly the annual funding for this segment in any previous year, Rock Health reported.
Here are other notable trends in virtual mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.