By Victor Camlek, Principal Analyst, Telehealth, Frost & Sullivan
Tele-Behavioral Health involves the use of telecommunications solutions such as videoconferencing to deliver virtual behavioral health sessions between a patient and a therapist. Many sources call this capability Telemental Health. The practice of Tele-Behavioral services expands this domain to add the interactive capability to additional areas of practice, such as smoking cessation programs or counseling support. Regardless of the name, the practice of providing virtual telehealth solutions to behavioral and mental health issues is promising. For example, in the opinion of The University of Colorado Denver, “All mental health procedures that are delivered “face-to-face” can be delivered remotely via Telemental Health.”
Clearly, mental and behavioral health issues represent a serious health issue in the United States. The National Alliance on Mental Health has reported:
- In 2014, there were an estimated 43.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with a mental illness in the past year. This number represented 18.1% of all U.S. adults.
- In 1914, approximately 1 in 25 adults in the United States — 9.8 million, or 4.2% —experienced a serious mental illness. These illnesses substantially interfere with the ability to manage a family.
- An estimate that indicated the financial cost of mental disorders was at least $467 billion in the United States in 2012.
In addition, smoking remains as a habit that many people may seek help to overcome. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports: “In 2014, nearly 17 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (16.8%) currently* smoked cigarettes. This means an estimated 40 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes.”
Clearly the US Healthcare system remains challenged by a mix of behavioral and mental problems. In fact, many potential patients find it difficult to gain therapeutic help or travel great distances in some parts of the nation where there are a limited number of nearby behavioral health services.
Telehealth provides a solution whereby patients can receive fast appointments and services in the comfort of their own home. The services are generally delivered by board certified healthcare professionals. The equipment needed by the patient is likely derived from now familiar household items such as computers, notebooks, smart devices, and smartphones. Any of these devices, coupled with a connection to the Internet, will serve the needs of a virtual visit. Video is perhaps the best option and that is easy to accomplish using familiar apps, such as Skype or FaceTime, or special secure links offered as part of a virtual health provider service.
There are already a number of companies providing virtual tele-behavioral services. In an upcoming report focused on Telehealth to be released by Frost & Sullivan, eight of these companies are presented, namely: American Well, Empower Interactive, MDLIVE, Talksession, Talkspace, Teladoc, Virtual Therapy Connect, and WeCounsel. Some of the companies, such as American Well, MDLIVE, and Teladoc are building national scale with a range of medical condition coverage capabilities, while some of the firms listed are specializing in mental health services.
Regardless of which provider the patient ultimately selects, the range of options to access mental health services is now much wider than ever before. The strength of a video conference is its ability to engage in a face-to-face interactive session. A view of body language is also helpful. Overall, Tele-Behavioral Health stands out as among the top five areas of opportunity in telehealth according to Frost & Sullivan research.
Telehealth market opportunity segments, in addition to Tele-Behavioral Health, are explored in the upcoming Q4 2016 report by Frost & Sullivan, US Telehealth Market, Forecast to 2021. Medical Specialties Expected to Drive Growth. This report will provide additional information about the US market for Telehealth, including an assessment of 18 segments and sub-segments that offer the potential for growth.
Additional Reports of Interest:
- US Remote Patient Monitoring Market Is it Finally Ready to Make a Difference? NF6E-48, November 2015 https://www.frost.com/nf6e
- US Telehealth Virtual Visits Market. Services for the 21st Century House Call K00D-48, May 2016 https://www.frost.com/k00d
- US mHealth Market and Growth Opportunity Analysis. Mobile Services Shifting to Care and Case Management K093-48, September 2016 https://www.frost.com/k093
 University of Colorado Denver, Telemental Health Guide: https://www.tmhguide.org/site/epage/87606_871.htm
 National Alliance on Mental Health: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2005–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2015;64(44):1233–40 ]