This article was last updated on Nov. 18, 2020.
When you hear the words “virtual doctor,” what comes to mind? A hologram popping up at a moment’s notice? A robot you chat with online?
It’s easy to let your imagination run wild, especially if you haven’t given virtual visits a try yet. But a virtual doctor is just like any other board-certified physician — you just receive treatment via phone, tablet or computer
And as it turns out, virtual doctors can play a huge part in your overall health, even your mental health.
How can a virtual doctor treat your mental health?
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people worldwide will be affected by a mental disorder External Site at some point in their lives. And, based on a recent Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of AmericaSM Report External Site, six out of the top ten conditions impacting the millennial generation are behavioral conditions impacting mental and emotional well-being.
Yet, more than 70 percent of people External Site with mental health conditions don't seek help. From shame to lack of access many people find it can be challenging to reach out for help Opens New Window, but it doesn’t have to be.
Virtual visits, behavioral health and the COVID-19 pandemic
New survey data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) shows three in four Americans with behavioral health conditions are continuing therapy services Opens New Window during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the availability of virtual visits and other digital health services. In fact, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has seen virtual visits for behavioral health conditions increase by more than 3,000 percent since March 2020. Most of the virtual visit claims are for existing patients who wanted to avoid missing a behavioral health service, even amid the pandemic.
Is seeing a virtual doctor the best option for my mental health?
You and your virtual doctor will decide the best course of treatment for your specific needs. Maybe you would prefer in-person one-on-one counseling or group therapy sessions. But if you’re not sure, virtual visits are a great place to start and figure out what works best for you.
Here are a few benefits of choosing virtual visits.
- Convenience: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America External Site, the benefits of therapy are usually seen 12–16 weeks after starting. It’s not always possible for people to consistently schedule and make time for these appointments. Virtual visits fit into your schedule to make consistent treatment as easy as possible.
- Affordability: Cost of care can be a huge barrier for people seeking mental health treatment. Virtual visits may be covered by your Wellmark health insurance plan. And, even if they aren't, they may still be more affordable than regular trips to a mental health professional. Just make sure you log in to myWellmark® Opens New Window and check your specific benefits before receiving care.
- Privacy: Over time you should develop a relationship with your virtual doctor. But texting, emails, and phone calls can be an easier way to build trust and open up about sensitive feelings you may be experiencing.
If you've been wondering how to get help with your mental health, a virtual doctor visit might be a place to begin. So reach out, ask questions, and get started. It could be just what you need for a boost in your health.
If you are concerned about your mental health and need immediate help, please take advantage of the resources provided by the Centers for Disease Control External Site.