During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of mental health appointments (55%) were conducted remotely, primarily through videoconferencing rather than in-person visits. This form of care is called telemedicine or telehealth, and it allows patients to receive care through technology like cellphones, video chat, computers, and tablets.
A study analyzed patient information from the Department of Veterans Affairs from January 1, 2019, through August 31, 2023, covering over 277 million outpatient visits by 9 million veterans. The findings revealed that the volume of telemedicine visits increased significantly once the pandemic began. For primary care and mental health care, in-person appointments dropped from 81% to 23% in the first few months of the pandemic.
By spring 2023, phone-based care had returned to its pre-pandemic level but video-based care remained close to its peak during the pandemic. This represents a 2,300% increase from its pre-pandemic level. Researchers noted that the majority of mental health care continues to be provided via telemedicine due to its ease of adaptation compared to primary care and medical specialists’ services that often require in-person evaluations such as physical examinations.