Oct. 26, 2021
Screening and Treatment
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that major depressive disorder affects 16.1 million American adults, representing 6.7% of the adult population (ADAA, 2020). Depression may adversely affect treatment and create barriers to management of other chronic medical conditions. Patient outcomes can improve when patients are screened for depression, assessed for symptoms and provided treatment. Screening should utilize adequate evidence-based screening tools to ensure accurate diagnosis, efficient treatment, and appropriate follow-up.
Treating Depression with Telemedicine
After a positive depression screening, providers should advise patients on screening results, provide an individualized, evidence-based treatment plan, including a follow-up assessment and support for medication adherence, as well as a referral to behavioral health, when needed. Depression is remarkably responsive to antidepressant therapy, but only if the patient receives appropriate treatment in a timely manner. Proper treatment of depression has been proven to effectively reduce depressive symptoms, decrease the risk of relapse and recurrence, and decrease emergency department visits and hospitalization rates (Simon, M.D., 2019).
Telehealth as a mode of service delivery has been used in clinical settings for over 60 years, increasing in recent years, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth visits for mental health increased by 556 percent between March 11 and April 22, 2020 (SAMHSA, 2021)
Antidepressant therapy treatments delivered through telehealth have been shown to increase health outcomes, recovery and crisis support, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) across diverse behavioral health and primary care settings. Leveraging telemedicine for mental health care offers several benefits that may allow an otherwise reluctant member to receive desperately needed care. It has the potential to address treatment gaps with depression and make services more accessible and convenient, and it can improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities.
Telemedicine has tremendous potential to improve the lives of members suffering from depression and provide a powerful solution to those who need a more targeted course of treatment.
The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.