Your Guide to Treating Depression

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5 Misconceptions About Virtual Doctor Visits for Depression

  • portrait of female doctor waving at computer screen during telehealth appointment
    Get the facts about using telehealth for depression.
    Telehealth, also called telemedicine, is the use of digital technologies such as a computer or smartphone to manage health care and connect with medical professionals remotely. It has grown in popularity over the last few years for people living with a variety of health conditions, from diabetes to depression. Telehealth for depression can be particularly beneficial, as it provides a convenient way to stay in touch with your mental health provider on a regular basis. Yet even as these virtual doctor visits have become more popular, telehealth misconceptions abound.

  • female patient sitting on couch waving during telehealth session with female doctor
    Misconception #1: I won’t get the same quality of care.
    Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health providers can provide the same type and quality of care using telemedicine as they do in their office. Mental health care is especially well-suited to telemedicine, because it involves the provider talking with and being able to see their patient, which can easily be done over a smart phone or computer screen. Research finds that telehealth visits for depression give people just as much relief from their symptoms as in-person visits. And their satisfaction is equal to or even higher than it is during face-to-face sessions.

  • woman talking on phone and reviewing paperwork at home
    Misconception #2: Using telemedicine for depression is more expensive.
    The cost of a telehealth visit should be similar to that of an in-person visit. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicare, Medicaid, and many private health insurance companies have begun to cover the cost of telemedicine appointments. You may still be responsible for copays or coinsurance, but that’s often the case even when you visit your doctor’s office in person. Before you schedule a telehealth appointment, check to see how much of the billing your insurance company will cover.

  • man-using-mouse-at-computer
    Misconception #3: The technology is hard to use.
    One of the biggest telehealth misconceptions is that it’s too high-tech for most Americans to easily use. That might have been true in the past, but today’s telemedicine technology is very user friendly. You may be asked to download a certain type of software on your computer, or an app on your smartphone before your visit. If you don’t understand how to use it, your doctor’s office can talk you through the process. Then, all you’ll need is a strong internet connection and a working microphone and camera on your device.

  • young woman leaning forward looking at laptop
    Misconception #4: Telehealth could expose my private health information.
    Having a personal conversation about your mental health over the internet does raise security and privacy concerns. Could someone hack in and get access to your personal information? Don’t worry: just as with an in-person appointment, your doctor will take every step necessary to protect your privacy and has to adhere to specific protocols to keep your information safe. The telehealth video platform you use will operate on a secure connection, and your data should be encrypted. Make sure your wireless connection is secure and password-protected to shield it against prying eyes. Arrange to join your telehealth visit in a quiet, private area at home or elsewhere. If you have any concerns, ask your provider’s office what steps they’ll take to protect your health information.

  • closeup of hands holding smartphone during telehealth appointment on dining table next to glass of water
    Misconception #5: My relationship with my doctor won’t be the same.
    Building trust with your provider is important. You’ll make more progress in treatment if you feel comfortable with your doctor. Can you form the same connection over the phone or computer that you would while sitting in the office? As long as you can still see each other face to face, you should be able to relate to your psychiatrist or counselor in the same way during a telehealth session as you would in person. You might even feel closer to them with telehealth because you’ll have more points of contact, including email.

Telehealth Depression | Telemedicine for Depression

About the Author

Stephanie Watson has been a consumer health writer for more than 20 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Boston University, and has completed TV/radio and copyediting workshops at Stanford University and the University of California Berkeley Extension. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
  1. 50-State Survey: Establishment of a Patient-Physician Relationship via Telemedicine. AMA. https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2018-10/ama-chart-telemedicine-patient-physician-relationship.pdf
  2. Busch AB, Sugarman DE, Horvitz LE, et al. Telemedicine for Treating Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Reflections Since the Pandemic. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021. 46:1068-1070. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41386-021-00960-4
  3. Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality? McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality
  4. Using Telehealth to Meet Mental Health Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis. The Commonwealth Fund. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/using-telehealth-meet-mental-health-needs-during-covid-19-crisis
  5. Telehealth: Technology Meets Health Care. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/telehealth/art-20044878
  6. Guaiana G, Mastrangelo J, Hendrikx S, et al. A Systematic Review of the Use of Telepsychiatry in Depression. Community Mental Health Journal. 2021;57:93-100. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10597-020-00724-2
  7. Telehealth. Medicare.gov. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealth
  8. Privacy and Security. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. https://telehealth.va.gov/privacy-and-security
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 3
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