The Covid-19 pandemic shifted the economy in many ways. Some industries and practices became nearly obsolete. Other industries have seen exponential growth. Telehealth is one of the markets that benefited from the shifts in society that one little virus caused.
Telehealth allows patients to obtain medical care through telecommunication technologies. Tools supporting patients’ health from the comfort of their own homes have become increasingly popular. The psychedelic industry, like many other sectors of healthcare, has leveraged telehealth platforms to expand its patient base and provide healthcare in a new way. This model has changed the way that people receive healthcare, and the psychedelic industry will have to integrate it into the developing treatment model– and many companies already have.
Telehealth Mental Health Benefits
When everyone got stuck inside in the early days of the pandemic, healthcare providers began shifting the way that they deliver services in accordance with the stay-at-home orders. Telehealth utilization increased 38x from the beginning of the pandemic to July 2021. Fear of the virus instigated this change, but something else kept the ball rolling. People across many industries realized that they could save time and money by offering and receiving products and services from home.
The pandemic also caused a rise in mental health issues. There was a 500% increase in mental health screenings in the US from 2019 to 2021. Therapists providing their services through zoom were in high demand, and they still are. Companies that provide virtual mental health services have expanded.
There was another key shift during the pandemic that has allowed for the rise of telehealth. To accommodate the growth in telehealth demand, laws were changed allowing doctors to easily provide care without seeing their patients in person.
In January 2020, the US declared a public health emergency that is still in effect today. It was recently announced that it will stay in effect for at least another 60 days– until January 11, 2023. This allows federal agencies to expand certain programs without getting authorization from Congress. One of the changes made allows doctors to prescribe controlled substances through telecommunication. Previously, controlled substances could only be prescribed after an in-person examination.
This led to a rise in telehealth companies offering prescriptions for Adderall, benzodiazepines, and ketamine. This has led to some amazing opportunities, but also some harmful practices. Telehealth company Cerebral came under federal investigation earlier this year for overprescribing ADHD medications. While some companies may be taking advantage of the new lax regulations, it has also left way for increased access to treatment that has the potential to help millions of people.
Psychedelics are Utilizing Telehealth
Several new companies are utilizing the telehealth model to provide ketamine therapy. It allows patients from anywhere to obtain care at lower costs than would be available at a brick-and-mortar location. Ketamine is the only psychedelic that is legal to prescribe for the treatment of depression in the US and many other countries. Companies such as Mindbloom are utilizing the telehealth model to provide Ketamine treatment to those in need across America. The cost is significantly lower for patients because they can obtain treatment in the comfort of their own homes without taking up significant time with a doctor– the guides for the psychedelic experience do not have medical degrees.
Mindbloom has run into some critique because its model doesn’t always give patients the level of care and support that they need. There will always be patients who fall through the cracks, but some psychedelic companies are utilizing telehealth to try and expand the support system that patients receive.
Beckley Retreats is using telecommunication to provide extra support to its patients without driving up prices significantly. Those who attend one of their psilocybin retreats in Jamaica also gain access to four weeks of preparations and six weeks of integration support following the retreat– all through virtual platforms. They offer group sessions to cultivate community and 1-on-1 support to help people make the most of their experience.
Those who go through psychedelic experiences need resources to make the most of their treatment. A guided psychedelic experience can cost thousands of dollars on its own– and preparation and integration drive up the price even further. Telehealth resources can help lower the price by offering resources that help support psychedelic experiences.
Digital platforms like Mindleap help bridge this gap and connect patients to the resources that they need. Mindleap offers information on psychedelics, meditations, and connections to practitioners. This is one example of telehealth platforms being developed to support the psychedelic industry. Technology, when used correctly, helps people find the resources that they need, and it supports practitioners in their work. There are already a handful of companies working on telehealth programs designed specifically to support the psychedelic industry.
The psychedelic industry is expanding rapidly, and a lack of technological resources will inhibit the pace at which growth can occur. Telehealth allows doctors to reach patients that would otherwise not be able to obtain treatment. With the help of the proper platforms, psychedelic treatment will reach people in locations and social classes that need help, but wouldn’t be able to obtain it otherwise.
When the national health emergency ends, some of the laws changes may end. Doctors may not be able to prescribe controlled substances through telecommunication anymore, however, telehealth is here to stay. The American Psychiatric Association reveals that “the percentage of Americans saying they would use telehealth services for mental healthcare increased from 49% in 2020 to 59% in 2021.” Many people will continue to seek health services online, and that leaves an opening for psychedelic companies to expand the reach of their treatment offerings.
Psychedelic companies are developing and integrating telehealth platforms to support mental health treatment. It will be an integral part of the burgeoning industry. How people obtain healthcare is changing, and the psychedelic industry is preparing to meet this new demand. The growth of telehealth has appeared magically in tandem with the growth of the psychedelic industry. Though there are some potential ethical problems, telehealth could be used to support and enhance the already rapid growth of the psychedelic industry.