Tag: Cantor

Reading of the Week: Can Chatbots & AI Help Access? The new Nature Med Paper; Also, Telepsych in the US and the Latest in the News

From the Editor

More and more organizations use AI; today, a chatbot might assist you in ordering a pizza or tracking a package. But could a chatbot help our patients find the mental health care that they need? Could it help self-identified members of ethnic groups – who historically do less well in getting services – with access?

Johanna Habicht (of Limbic) and her co-authors try to answer these questions in a new study for Nature Medicine. They looked at the use of a chatbot for self-referral against the standard option in the UK’s NHS when patients seek psychological care. The resulting multisite observational study involved almost 130 000 people. They found that AI increased referrals (especially, in terms of diversity). “Here we demonstrate that digital tools can reduce the accessibility gap by addressing several key barriers.” We look at the study and mull its implications.

As we move past the pandemic, we ask: is virtual care routinely offered for mental disorders? In the second selection from JAMA Health Forum, Jonathan Cantor (of the RAND Corporation) and his colleagues consider mental telehealth – or telepsychiatry, to use the older term – in the United States. With a secret shopper approach, trained callers phoned more than 1 400 US clinics, posing as potential clients with mental health problems. They found most offered virtual care. Further: “There were no differences in the availability of mental telehealth services based on the prospective patient’s clinical condition, perceived race or ethnicity, or sex.”

And, finally, we explore the latest in the news with recent articles from The Guardian and The New York Times. Among the topics: the mental health struggles of rising political star Lina Hidalgo, privacy and mental health apps, and help for those with schizophrenia and homelessness in Cameroon.

DG

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Reading of the Week: An Exercise App for Burnout – the New JAMA Psych Paper; Also, Pandemic Mental Health Use and Szalavitz on Portugal

From the Editor

A recent CMA survey found that more than half of physicians report high levels of burnout; surveys of other health care disciplines show a similar result. Not surprisingly, burnout is much discussed. What can be done for health care workers?

In the first selection, Vincent Gosselin Boucher (of the University of British Columbia) and his co-authors consider that question, offering an app-based intervention featuring exercises that can be done at home. The resulting study, just published in JAMA Psychiatry, included 288 health care workers in an RCT. “[A] 12-week app-based exercise intervention yielded significant reductions in depressive symptoms among HCWs that became more pronounced as time progressed.” We review the paper and its implications.

In the second selection, Jonathan H. Cantor (of the RAND Corporation) and his co-authors look at mental health utilization and spending before and during the pandemic, drawing on almost 1.6 million mental health insurance claims in the US. “[U]tilization and spending rates for mental health care services among commercially insured adults increased by 38.8% and 53.7%, respectively, between 2019 and 2022.” 

Finally, in the third selection, author Maia Szalavitz writes about the decriminalization of low-level drug crimes in Portugal. In a New York Times essay, she argues that critics don’t understand what Portugal accomplished – and, in contrast, how many Americans go untreated in correctional facilities. She concludes: “Shifting priorities and funding to provide high-quality treatment and other supports for recovery like housing takes time. Our failure is a century of criminalization – not much-needed attempts to end it.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Telepsychiatry – the Reality, the Potential, the Problems

From the Editor

Just a handful of months ago, mental health work didn’t require a webcam or a lighting ring, and no one talked about Zoom fatigue. The world is different now, obviously. With COVID-19, telepsychiatry is very much part of our clinical work.

This week, we consider three papers focused on telepsychiatry and our new world.

How widespread is the adoption of telepsychiatry in this pandemic era? In the first selection, Jonathan Cantor (of the RAND Corporation) and his co-authors draw on a big American database to answer that question. In Psychiatric Services, they write: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of outpatient mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities offering telehealth has grown dramatically. However, our analyses also indicated that considerable proportions of mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities still did not offer telehealth as of January 2021…”

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In the second selection, John C. Fortney (of the University of Washington) and his co-authors consider two different types of care: with psychiatrists directly involved in patient care (through televideo) or indirectly, by providing support to primary care. In a JAMA Psychiatry study, they do a comparison. Spoiler alert: both approaches were effective, suggesting great potential, especially for those in rural areas.

Of course, not everyone is enthusiastic about telepsychiatry. In our third selection, Dr. J. Alexander Scott (of the University of Michigan), a resident of psychiatry, describes his ambivalence. His Academic Psychiatry paper starts memorably: “Admittedly, I’ve never liked telemedicine.” He outlines some of the problems with our digital world.

DG

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