During the COVID-19 pandemic, many mental health service providers transitioned to delivering services via telehealth.
In our global study surveying 1,206 GCP.Network members from 100 countries in six languages, the majority of clinicians (90.5%) reported having started or increased their use of telephone and video conferencing by June and July of 2020. The study also found that about half of the clinicians continued to offer in-person services to existing and new patients.
Notably, the modality of telehealth use varied by WHO region, country income level, and profession. Clinicians from the Americas-North, Americas-South and Western Pacific-Oceania reported higher levels of videoconferencing use, and use of chat or instant messaging was reported to be higher among clinicians from the South-East Asia, Americas-South, and Eastern Mediterranean regions. Clinicians based in low-income countries reported the highest proportion of chat or instant messaging whereas clinicians in high-income countries indicated telephone and videoconferencing use were more common.
The percentage of clinicians who had received telehealth training, and the type of training, also varied at the time of the study in June-July 2020. 49.1% of mental health professionals had not received any form of telehealth training, and only 19.8% of clinicians received training addressing all three components of telehealth (clinical, ethical and legal, and technological). Training also varied by WHO region: a higher percentage of clinicians from Americas North, Western Pacific-Oceania, and South-East Asia received training on all three components of telehealth compared to other regions. Additionally, clinician age, country income level, profession, and telehealth training also were associated with the degree to which clinicians perceived telehealth to be effective (e.g. clinicians who received more training were more likely to endorse telehealth is very effective).
Clinicians also expressed concerns about using telehealth, including concerns about technological barriers, prescribing medication remotely, assessing and managing high-risk situations, and the quality of care compared to in-person services for specific patient populations.
This international and multilingual study indicates a shift in global practices with increased use of telehealth. These findings have several important implications for policy and practice, such as developing local telehealth standards and increasing training opportunities that address the clinical, ethical and legal, and technological aspects of telehealth.
Madeline Montoya, Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa, shares her perspective as the lead author of this study:
What was most meaningful to me about this study was how it illustrated the capacity of the GCP.Network to provide such a robust snapshot of mental health professionals’ experiences and concerns as they adapted their practices to continue offering care during the pandemic.
Thank you to all GCP.Network members who have participated in this three-wave longitudinal study. We look forward to continued collaboration and sharing the findings from waves two and three of this study examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global mental health professionals.
GCP.Network members can log in to download the full article on our Scholarly Output page.
Article citation: Montoya, M. I., Kogan, C. S., Rebello, T. J., Sadowska, K., Garcia-Pacheco, J. A., Khoury, B., Kulygina, M., Matsumoto, C., Robles, R., Huang, J., Andrews, H. F., Ayuso-Mateos, J. L., Denny, K., Gaebel, W., Gureje, O., Kanba, S., Maré, K., Medina-Mora, M. E., Pike, K. M., Roberts, M. C., Sharan, P., Stein, D. J., Stroup, T. S., Zhao, M., Reed, G. M. (2022). An international survey examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on telehealth use among mental health professionals. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 148, 188-196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2022.01.050