The virtual hospital model being pioneered by organizations like the Medically Home Group can take medical treatment or recovery out of the hospital, and into the home. However, not all treatment from a virtual hospital is strictly physical in nature. There’s another branch of digital health that benefits greatly from the virtual hospital, and that is counseling, psychotherapy, and other forms of mental health treatment. Now, this type of digital healthcare is taking the next step.
Mental health treatment differs from medical health treatment in that extensive medical instruments, and diagnostic hardware is often not required. A cornerstone of good mental health treatment is regular access to a professional, especially in therapy sessions.
However, because of the size of the United States, and the scattering of the population not just in dense urban areas, but isolated rural ones, getting access to a mental health professional can be difficult. The virtual hospital model has been making great strides in allowing people with an Internet connection to get valuable access to mental health professionals regardless of where they live, and where the professionals are located.
Another Step Forward
Now, mental health treatment through a virtual hospital just got another big boost. Talkspace, a new start-up company in digital health, has partnered with a major US insurer and received US$50 million in financing to invest in their new venture. They are creating an app that allows people seeking mental health services to find the appropriate professional through a curated, verified network.
Statistics indicate that as recently as 2017, 57 million Americans suffer from some a mental health or substance abuse issue. Unfortunately, 70% of them never received the treatment they need. There is a huge demand for these services, that isn’t necessarily constrained by a lack of supply, so much as access to that available supply.
Talkspace is now looking to expand their services beyond individuals who come to the app willing to pay for its use to access the professionals they need. “Employee packages” are now being evaluated, where the Talk-space app could be bundled in with other employee benefits so that mental health gets the same emphasis of importance as dental, or medical.
Digital health, especially in the mental health space, can be a game changer. Not only does the virtual hospital make treatment more accessible, but it may also be more comfortable for people afraid of the stigma of being seen visiting a mental health treatment facility. It’s an important step forward.