Is virtual therapy available in Utah? What can telehealth do? | Opinion

Virtual therapy and health care assistance has expanded since COVID-19 began, but we still need to do more to fill our health gaps, many believe.

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The Beehive State has a longstanding problem with mental health. In 2019, Utah ranked sixth highest in the nation for its age-adjusted suicide rate, and it is currently the leading cause of death for Utah teenagers.

This year, 1 in 5 Utahns will experience their own struggle with mental illness due to Utah’s mental health professional shortage, the rapidly growing state population, and the increasing demand for mental health services.

Luckily, there is hope.

Telemedicine provides a platform to address Utah’s pervasive health care system shortcomings of access, cost and quality. Similarly, telehealth has unique advantages, including health care professionals’ enhanced workforce capacity, a more diverse and efficient combination of different labor types, innovation, lower costs, mental health care services disparities’ mitigation, and the prevention of future hospitalizations and general disruptions to daily living. 

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The COVID-19 pandemic fueled rapid regulatory and legislative changes broadening Utahns’ access to a vast telemedicine services range. Such policy changes, specifically, included temporarily waiving occupational licensing requirements and regulations that would’ve blocked access to large scale telehealth services. 

Essentially, the pandemic served as a testing site for telemedicine and its effectiveness.

What we learn from this process is that 80% of mental health providers utilizing telehealth agree that telemedicine is effective in improving patient outcomes. Additionally, 68% of providers stated that telehealth increases client satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Findings like the ones mentioned above coming out of the pandemic illustrate the potential for a sustainable, accessible and affordable health care system when government regulation is minimal. 

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Source:: Deseret News – Utah News

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