An article in The New York Times by Randall Stross entitled “The Therapist Will See You Now, via the Web” said that a few psychiatrists had been practicing live video counseling via television technology nearly 40 years ago. It never really caught on (probably because it seems terribly impersonal for people who need help), but now some therapists are toying with the idea again – this time using the internet.
A few companies are offering consulting services via video, online chat or phone. These companies often offer the initial 10 minutes or so for free and then charge incrementally after that. Some focus on individuals and some gear their services toward institutions like a hospital, but both models have flaws to overcome. One executive said that remote therapy may eventually lead to large companies setting up rooms where employees can receive these services without having to take several hours off work to get to an appointment.
In either situation, many critics still posit that the impersonal nature of remote therapy could lead to flawed assessment, since psychologists would be unable to gather additional cues from the patient aside from what the patient presented online. The anonymity may encourage some patients to share their thoughts more freely, but that may not be enough of an incentive.
[An expert in the field] notes one advantage of face-to-face therapy cited by clinicians: it encourages a depressed or anxious patient to get up, get dressed, get out of the house and go to a clinic. (The New York Times)
Some professionals think video therapy could be helpful for people dealing with anxiety or depression, but one major barrier remains: Medicare and Medicaid will only reimburse for seeing a therapist over the internet in very limited situations, like for patients in extremely rural areas.
Other Medical Services
What about video-chatting with a dentist or other health professional? This model may help in emergency situations or for answering minor questions, but it certainly could never be comprehensive. Like a nurse hotline, they could probably just give general advice based on basic information gathered from the patient over the phone.
A situation like this should never replace having a dentist look at your teeth in person and checking for problems that might not be visible to the untrained eye. X-rays, an integral part of the dental/medical world, are another important part of dental examination that can reveal problems hidden deep in the tooth and cannot be taken via the internet.