Access to mental health services is, due to current epidemiology, extremely limited. For some areas addressing the special needs of mental health clients, access to experts seems to be nearly impossible. In developed countries, typical explanations include a lack of funding and limited numbers of experts as well as their regional distribution. Building capacity in specialist areas and developing accessibility are two challenges for the health-care system globally.
E-health based on improving web-based technologies provides more possibilities in response. Telehealth initiatives already try to support access in remote areas. High-speed Internet coverage and the development of web-based solutions allows for a new generation of approaches – virtual mental health clinics.
This innovative approach allows for increased capacity through improved communication, more effective service delivery and improves quality of care in a patient-centered treatment model. It could redefine the role of different settings and procedures between existing physical health-care systems with its dominant role, web-based expert-patient interaction, and integrated systems, e.g., addressing frequent conditions like PTSD (PTSD coach) or mood disorders (WalkAlong) with web-based platforms.
Key elements of a virtual clinic need to build on the use of mobile communication devices, mobile health (M-health), videoconferencing (V-health), and communication with patients in an integrated manner, combined with additional online tools to improve accessibility and quality of care. Other possible features and technologies are already evolving like the use of sensor technologies, virtual reality, and gaming.
Conclusion: The web and mobile technologies offer the chance for a paradigm shift in health care towards patient empowerment, early support, and sustainable care.
KeywordsMental Health Clinical Pathway Electronic Medical Record System Personal Health Record Online Treatment
The authors wish to thank Bell Let’s Talk for support.
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