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Online Doctor Services and the Management of Depression

Depression and Anxiety; the Global Stats

In January 2020, the World Health Organization releases an updated factsheet with a core focus on the global burden of Depression. At the time of reporting, the WHO estimated that over 264 million people currently suffer from depressive episodes. The report provided an accurate definition of depression episodes while differentiating this classification from mere transient mood swings observed as a psychological repose to prolonged stress. This report complements early reports of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Depression and Anxiety are the most common mental illnesses affecting over 40 million adults above the 18 years’ mark in the United States. In the US, EU, and many developing countries globally, the most widely diagnosed forms of anxiety include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorders, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The ADAA reports that nearly one-half of all cases of depression are diagnosed simultaneously with anxiety. Although depression has been confirmed to be predominant in females, however, it is not uncommon to make a confirmed diagnosis of depression and anxiety in men exposed to the risk factors of mental problems.

The drive for mental health awareness is a global responsibility of all governmental and State-sponsored health agencies. There are many effective psychological and drug-based therapy for the management of Depression and Anxiety in modern medicine. The therapy regimens are effective; however, the success rate of treatment has been linked with the method of healthcare delivery. Mental health experts have recommended a patient-centered treatment method that relies significantly on an informed patient-doctor interface. This explains why many online doctor services have launched many remote care plans for anxiety and depression patients.

Telemedicine and Mental Health

In the heat of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, many countries have shifted to telemedicine as a safe and effective healthcare delivery method. This simple healthcare delivery method is patient-centered and basically involves a small team of an online doctor, a subscribed patient, and a digital health technology vendor. With telemedicine, a patient can remotely consult an online doctor, present a list of symptoms, get diagnosed, secure an online prescription, and send a real-time update of clinical outcomes to the online doctor. Telemedicine provides a significantly improved variation of healthcare delivery methods by providing a platform entirely different from the conventional in-person hospital appointments.

Mental health impairment is a sensitive topic, and patients suffering from the same have been found to be reluctant to discuss symptoms and clinical improvements during in-person therapy sessions. In itself, this observation constitutes a significant barrier to therapy. Many professionals now adopt telemedicine in supervising their psychotherapy sessions with these patients. Online doctors can explore the two-way technology system offered by digital health service providers to contact patients and conduct therapy sessions without physical contact. This arrangement gives the patients a sense of anonymity and freedom to easily discuss their feelings without fear of judgment, discrimination, or stigmatization. In essence, these are the strong argument points supporting telemedicine in the management of anxiety and depression.

Telemedicine is an emerging topic in mental health service delivery, and as expected, the early studies on the effectiveness of this method are few and present inconclusive results. A reference study in this regard is a 2014 review publication of Smart Homecare Technology and Telehealth. By examining the effect of telehealth-to-home interventions on the quality of life for patients with depressive and anxiety disorders, the researchers provided the early sets of evidence supporting telemedicine’s adoption in cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.

Reports from this study suggest that telephone-mediated psychosocial interventions provided by online doctor services might be effective in depressive patients confronting barriers to in-person hospital appointments. This study also reports the possibility of a compromised mental health service delivery, especially in patients initially started on a physical therapy session who have subconsciously linked symptoms improvement with mental health professionals’ physical presence.

Management of Depression with Telemedicine

Despite many theoretical postulations and early empirical evidence supporting telemedicine in the management of depression and anxiety, the public perception and receptiveness toward telemedicine remain largely mixed. However, many online doctor services now enroll suitable patients into remote therapy sessions designed as a psychosocial intervention for mental health patients.

On patient evaluation, an online doctor can formulate a patient-centered psychotherapy model using online forums, group sessions, in-app pre-recorded videos, smartphone applications, and text messages. Currently, the most widely used therapy plans for the management of depression and anxiety in telemedicine include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Basically, an online doctor can schedule an online talk session with a patient, teach the patient practical steps to embrace positive thinking, deal with trauma and stress, avoid triggers, and employ behavioral skills needed to combat depression.

Online group forums can also be organized by an online doctor. In an online therapy session with other patients suffering from depression, a patient can quickly learn to build a strong interpersonal relationship with other people while feeling comfortable sharing sensitive information. While listening to other patients relate the history of trauma or experiences that triggers their depression and anxiety episode, a patient gets individualized attention while also building self-esteem and the necessary skills for improving social interaction and networking. The road to depression management is a long one; however, many studies suggest that remotely-delivered mental healthcare is fast replacing physical therapy sessions while also giving satisfactory results.

An online doctor can also issue an online prescription or recommend alternative and complementary treatments in many cases. Antidepressants are prescribed in the drug-based plan for the management of depression. This class of drugs restores the brain’s chemical imbalances and attempts to correct depression and anxiety from the cellular level. However, drug use is subject to patient preference and drug safety profile in patients. Many studies have shown that combining drug-based therapy with supervised physiotherapy can effectively relieve the symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Complementary treatment plans for anxiety and depression, including yoga and mindful meditation, can also be remotely supervised by an online therapist.

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