We all face challenges in life that can impact our mental health – and this is especially true during these strange times. One in five people in the U.S. will experience a mental illness during their lifetime (per the National Alliance on Mental Illness), and data now shows depression and anxiety are becoming more common since the coronavirus began.
Just as the initial outbreak of the virus caught hospitals unprepared, the United States’ mental-health system is even less prepared to handle this coming surge, per the Washington Post.
The coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental-health crisis
A national poll released March 25 by the American Psychiatric Association shows that almost half of all Americans are anxious about contracting COVID-19, and 40% are anxious about becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus.
May is Mental Health Month and with the added stressors surrounding COVID-19, psychiatrists – via telemedicine – have a key role in helping to alleviate suffering tied to the public health crisis.
Telemedicine is playing a vital role in the age of COVID-19
Amid the pandemic, U.S. hospitals and providers are racing to find new ways to deliver care to their communities without furthering the spread of COVID-19, turning to telemedicine to provide care without endangering patients or themselves, per Becker’s Hospital Review. Telemedicine creates a virtual barrier between physicians and patients who would otherwise be seated next to other people in waiting rooms.
“Telemedicine visits are beneficial to both patients and providers as they take less time to complete and provide more convenience to patients,” says Jessica Kiarashi, MD, a neurologist at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
In the long run, telemedicine can also help lower emergency room/urgent care visits and wait times, reduce appointment no-shows, and improve outcomes, as easier access to care can help ensure patients stick to treatment plans.
What about patients who don’t have access to the internet? Some psychiatrists suggest using telephone services.
Recruiting psychiatrists during the pandemic and amid a growing shortage
Despite the vital need for mental health care, the number of psychiatrists in the U.S. has increased by only 12% since 1995 – a rate that is far outpaced by underlying U.S. population growth. To reach the minimal guidelines for adequate care, that means almost 4,900 new practitioners are needed now, per a report from New American Economy.
Fortunately, medical schools and teaching hospitals across the country are taking a variety of measures to address the shortage and efforts show signs of progress: The number of psychiatry residency positions has grown every year since 2008. In 1994, the share of psychiatry residency positions hit a low of 43%, but in 2018 (the most recent data) the share of psychiatry residency positions filled by graduating U.S. medical students hit 63%, per the Texas Medical Association.
Recruiting psychiatrists now
Psychiatrist jobs are consistently one of the most requested positions by healthcare facilities. If you’re recruiting psychiatrists, we offer a few tips here: The Doximity Guide to Recruiting Psychiatrists. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) also recently released these resources for treating patients amidst the developing pandemic and policy changes regarding telemedicine services that your candidates may find helpful.
COVID-19 is changing the world in many ways, including how doctors are practicing and thinking about the future. To learn how doctors are interacting with Doximity during COVID-19, we invite you to watch the recording of our recent webinar, How Physicians are Interacting With Doximity During COVID-19.