The role of technology in improving access to timely care

Despite growing empathy and awareness around mental illness, Canadians coping with mental-health disorders continue to struggle with frequent misdiagnoses, ineffective treatment plans and a lack of timely access to care.

With average wait times stretching to more than five months, Julie Gaudry, speaking at Benefits Canada’s Mental Health Summit in Toronto on Nov. 7, noted delayed access to expert diagnosis and treatment is one of the primary obstacles to recovery and return to work.

Read: Early detection, treatment key to addressing mental disorders

Gaudry, who’s senior director of group and business markets at RBC Insurance Services Inc., also pointed to the lack of co-ordination between health-care providers, claimants and insurance carriers as an equally big barrier to improving outcomes.

In an effort to remedy the issue, some service providers have implemented multi-disciplinary approaches via remote health-care services to ensure claimants receive the right diagnosis and treatment for their mental-health challenges.

“The program seeks to improve health outcomes for people whose medical condition prevents them from working,” Eric Glazer, vice-president of innovation at Best Doctors Inc., told attendees at the summit. To begin with, he explained, an occupational therapist initiates early testing and sends the results to a psychologist. The psychologist reviews the information, provides a full diagnostic assessment and sends it over to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist evaluates that assessment and consults with the primary treatment provider around a treatment plan. Meanwhile, the psychologist reconnects with the patient and provides therapy sessions for 12 to 16 weeks. All of it takes place remotely, through a computer, tablet or smartphone, with patients never leaving the security and comfort of their home.

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Gaudry noted that, thanks to the easy and prompt access to experts, a high number of cases result in a timely change in diagnosis. In many instances, the services result in alterations to recommended treatment plans and prescribed drugs.

The ability to access care virtually also allows for significant drops in wait times for psychologists and psychiatrists. As a result, claims duration falls significantly as well.

Glazer noted that despite expectations of resistance from family physicians, they tend to embrace the expert advice. Patients, too, are expressing high rates of satisfaction with the services.

Read more stories from the 2017 Mental Health Summit