Technology and Health Care
E-therapy also know as online therapy, tele-therapy, or e-counselling is new method for mental health where the therapist offers support and psychological advice over the internet (Sucala et al., 2012). This can be done using email, online chat, video conferencing, or internet phone. E-therapy can be carried out in real-time via phone conversations and chat rooms. Using e-mail messages, the therapist offers the service in a delayed format. E-therapy cannot replace traditional therapy since it is not considered psychotherapy. E-therapy is only used for substituting traditional therapy in a situation where the therapist cannot access the patient. Using e-therapy a therapist can only offer advice to patients experiencing problems in work, life, or relationships. The therapist is not able to diagnose or treat mental illness using e-therapy. In situations where the therapist is unable to meet with the patient physically, e-therapy offers a means for the therapist to offer guidance to the patient. The effectiveness of the technology is limited, but using the technology a therapist can reach more patients and offer services in real-time. The technology is effective in situations where a patient is accustomed to a specific therapist, but the patient has relocated or unable to access the therapist frequently. The frequency of service offering ensure that a therapist can guide a patient without having to spend loads of time. E-mail messages are effective in situations where the therapist in unreachable. The patient would still receive advice though not promptly.
Though this might be considered a new concept, therapists have used it for a long time. Previously it would be referred to as distance communication. Since 1982, there have been online self-help groups that have offered advice to mental health patients. Currently, many sites offer mental health information together with private e-therapy clinics. The tremendous growth in e-therapy has resulted in the formation of an organization that promotes online mental health services. The International Society for Mental Health Online promotes the use, understanding, and development of online communication for the mental health community.
Impact of e-therapy on quality of care
Many patients have indicated they prefer to use online therapy because it offers them an opportunity to receive advice in a non-judgmental setting. The patients also prefer to receive advice from people they will not have to interact with physically, which protects the patient’s privacy. Patients in remote or rural areas can receive support from professional therapists located in the city (Loucas et al., 2014). Using e-therapy, the therapist can give guidance to the patients, which reduces their transport needs and ensures they receive advice when they need it most. The technology benefits patients because they can receive quality care without traveling long distances. The patient’s quality of life is improved because the technology is affordable, and the patient does not worry of huge medical bills resulting from hospitalization when they visit the therapist from remote areas. Traveling long distances to receive therapeutic advice would be cumbersome to the patient, and they might not manage to reach their destination before their symptoms increase.
The costs incurred by a patient are reduced when they use e-therapy. This is beneficial to the patient and reduces their overall medical expenses. Affordable care is vital for improving quality of life. Cost of care has been restrictive, but with the advancement of e-therapy patients can receive affordable and convenient care easily. Disabled patients are limited on the care they can receive, but with e-therapy, the patients can receive equal care. Disability is no longer an issue, and the patient can get vital advice. Hospitals or clinics might be out of reach for disabled patients, and e-therapy bridges this gap, which ensures they is ease of access to services. Homebound patients would only receive care if the therapist were to make house calls. Using e-therapy, the therapist can reach many patients without leaving the office and spending many hours travelling to reach the patients. Access to care is beneficial to patients, and e-therapy promotes patient access to quality care. Information is power and e-therapy makes the information readily available to the patients. Using the internet, a patient can access loads of information regarding mental health issues. Talking to family and friends is easy that consulting a therapist or external person especially regarding mental health.
Improving patient care is the priority when it comes to caring for patients. Mental health issues are less complex, and most patients feel stigmatized when they visit a mental health facility. Stigmatization prohibits the patient’s access to treatment. E-therapy allows a patient to seek the services of a therapist from their comfort zone and in privacy, which ensures they are more comfortable. When a patient is comfortable, they will offer more information to the therapist, which the therapist can use to diagnose and treat the patient. E-mail messages can have more information than physical therapy sessions (Stasiak et al., 2012). A patient is most likely to recall and describe what they are going through when they write than when they speak it out. E-therapy can also guide a patient to specify what is ailing them by giving them prompts in the form of questions. Group sessions are easily conducted from the comfort zones of the patients. Video conferencing has become a standard feature for most homes and therapists can employ this technology to offer counseling services to group patients. Patients who prefer to remain anonymous can opt to have audio conference only, which allows them to receive support from fellow people.
Learning is increased using e-therapy because a patient can access the necessary information when they have ample time. Traditional therapy sessions are limited on time, and a patient does not have the opportunity to learn more in regards to their condition. Using e-therapy, the patient can search online and access credible information that would be beneficial to them in learning about their condition. Psychological health information allows the patient to increase their knowledge of the ailment. There are many databases of information regarding mental health, and a compilation of the information can be found in credible websites.
Social, ethical and economic impact of e-therapy
E-therapy improves a patient’s social life in a comfortable environment. The patient from online resources can learn social skills and methods to adapt to living with the condition. The information found online is detailed, and it teaches the patient how to monitor and control the different episodes they might suffer. With guidance from experienced therapists, the articles are detailed enough to deal with different aspects of mental health, which is beneficial to the patient. In remote areas, a patient would not gain access to therapy services easily, and this would affect their social life. With e-therapy, the patient can receive mental health advice from a qualified professional. Ethical concerns are addressed easily since the patient has to offer patient consent and the therapist has to conduct the sessions ethically. Ethics is observed, and the information they obtain online has disclaimers. According to Postel, de Haan, ter Huurne, Becker, and de Jong (2011) confidentiality is not guaranteed when using e-therapy because the therapist is receiving information from different sources. The e-mail messages can be intercepted by people and used illegally. Reliability of the technology cannot guarantee that all ethical concerns are addressed when using the technology. Crises cannot be handled with the urgency required. The patient has to understand that the information is offered for advice purposes, and the technology cannot be used to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. E-therapy is only used to offer support to a patient, but the therapist has no way to diagnose the patient using online technology. Physical access to the patient is necessary if the therapist is to diagnose the patient correctly.
The technology has allowed patients to receive cheap services. E-therapy is cheaper when compared to the traditional therapy session, and the patient does not have to make a booking to receive advice or guidance. The patient saves on medical costs, which can improve upon their financial situation. Irrespective of the patient’s financial background, he or she can receive treatment (Sucala, Schnur, Brackman, Constantino, & Montgomery, 2013). However, most insurance companies do not cover e-therapy. This becomes a hindrance to the organization and denies the organization the opportunity to offer vital services. The organization can increase its finances by using e-therapy because it would have the opportunity to access more patients. Offering services to remote or rural areas will ensure the organization improves the quality of life for patients who would otherwise suffer in silence.
The use of e-therapy has become widespread, and there are different ways the technology can be employed. A therapist willing to offer services to far-flung areas can manage to do so using e-therapy. In remote areas, patients face challenges when they want to access mental health services easily, and e-therapy has allowed therapists to reach out to patients in such locations. Patients using e-therapy should understand that the technology cannot be used to diagnose the condition. The much that therapists can offer is guidance and advice. Therapists can use e-mail communications to offer advice to patients who are not available for real-time communication. E-therapy is a vital technology that can be used to promote mental health access. Patients can receive information in a comfortable and familiar setting. The technology could receive further backing if more professionals could adopt it and promote its usage.
Loucas, C.E., Fairburn, C.G., Whittington, C., Pennant, M.E., Stockton, S., & Kendall, T. (2014). E-therapy in the treatment and prevention of eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy.
Postel, M.G., de Haan, H.A., ter Huurne, E.D., Becker, E.S., & de Jong, C.A. (2011). Characteristics of problem drinkers in E-therapy vs. face-to-face treatment. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 37(6), 537-542.
Stasiak, K., Fleming, T., Lucassen, M., Shepherd, M., Doherty, I., & Merry, S. (2012). The journey towards new generation e-therapy for adolescents with depression. Neuropsychiatrie de l’Enfance et de l’Adolescence, 60(5), S144.
Sucala, M., Schnur, J.B., Brackman, E.H., Constantino, M.J., & Montgomery, G.H. (2013). Clinicians’ Attitudes Toward Therapeutic Alliance in E-Therapy. The Journal of general psychology, 140(4), 282-293.
Sucala, M., Schnur, J.B., Constantino, M.J., Miller, S.J., Brackman, E.H., & Montgomery, G.H. (2012). The therapeutic relationship in e-therapy for mental health: a systematic review. Journal of medical Internet research, 14(4).
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