The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. Additionally, 46 percent of parents reported that their teenager has shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Those being discharged from hospitals after recovering from COVID-19 have had reportedly high rates of post-traumatic symptoms.
At Luma Health, we were curious about how the mental health landscape has changed in the last year. We noticed several trends in looking at data from Luma Health users. First, cancellation rates among mental health counseling spiked in March 2020 to 35%, an increase of nearly 10% from the previous month.
After we launched our telehealth platform in April 2020, promptly after the start of the pandemic, cancellation rates remained below 25%. We speculate that the rise in cancellation rates in March 2020 was due in part to uncertainty around the duration of COVID-19 clinic closures.
Second, teenagers continued to schedule the most psychology-related appointments during the pandemic, while older adults scheduled more psychology-related appointments than they had before. In June 2020, 1.3% of all created appointments were mental health appointments for patients under age 20. In comparison, for the same time period, only 0.64% of created appointments were mental health-related and for patients ages 41-60. However, those above age 40 created more mental health appointments in the months following the start of the pandemic than they had in the months prior, illuminating the importance of mental health care during an uncertain time.
Third, in the telehealth space, young adults continue to create more mental health-related appointments than older adults. Adults ages 41- 60 created 26% of all psych-related appointments, but only 20% of telepsych appointments. Those above age 60 created 14% of all psych-related appointments, but only 4% of telepsych appointments. Regardless, things are shifting under the current circumstances.
In a previous blog post we discussed providing support for mental wellness and highlighted embracing telehealth as a “new normal”. But are patients ready for this change? Studies show that they increasingly are. One study revealed that 54.1% of participants stated that they were likely to continue with telepsychiatry visits after shelter-in-place is over. Participants who preferred telepsychiatry over face-to-face visits cited convenience and health safety as their main reasons. It is important to note that those with previous medical conditions will remain protected by telehealth post-pandemic.
Convenience and accessibility are necessary for telehealth usage to continue expanding among older adults. Luma Health’s telehealth platform makes it easier to connect virtually. The platform integrates with existing technology and is entirely HIPAA-compliant. It also provides a simpler experience for patients, who don’t need to download an app or log in.
While virtual care may have been met with reluctance previously, these unprecedented times have forced us to rethink mental health care access. Those under age 40 have adopted this technological shift to telehealth most seamlessly, but the 2020 National Poll on Health Aging has shown that older adults have also experienced substantial shifts towards telehealth in the last year. Through Luma Health’s intuitive telehealth platform, we have the opportunity to improve the scale of mental health counseling and rethink the conventional mental health landscape.