“In both groups, the depression values fell significantly,” says Professor Andreas Maercker, summing up the results of the study. At the end of the treatment, no more depression could be diagnosed in 53 percent of the patients who underwent online therapy—compared to 50 percent for face-to-face therapy.
This study shows that across at least one dimension of mental health care, e-visits can do everything in-person visits can do. Though it doesn’t translate directly, this study points to the growing consensus that much of the basic health care traditionally offered in face-to-face settings can know be done virtually. At Co.Exist Dr. Nick Van Terheyden argues that, in the near future we will see a massive shift away from hospital-based care to decentralized, consumer-controlled distribution of services. He highlights in particular a telehealth platform called Sense.ly:
Data also shows that the largest volume of readmissions occurs among patients with chronic disease and more than 75% of health care costs are in fact attributed to chronic illness. Sense.ly helps address these systemic issues by enabling patients to manage their chronic diseases through a telehealth platform offering access to home-based behavior and medication services and consultation. The telehealth market, which is slated to impact 1.8 million patients worldwide by 2017, compared to 308,000 today, offers a glimpse into what the most profitable hospitals of the future might look like–empty.
One common rejoinder to arguments for more telehealth and e-vists is that they can’t provide the same quality of service or health outcomes as in-person visits. Psychotherapy is obviously different from physical care; the former mostly involves probing the patient’s mind. But nevertheless the Zurich study suggests that routine and straightforward health diagnoses could be competently made with advanced telehealth technology. Given the enormous benefits of decentralized, consumer-controlled care, the sooner we move towards telehealth, the better.[Hospital technology image courtesy of Shutterstock]