The field of psychiatry was quickly forced to transition to a remote model in March of 2020, a new experience for many clinicians and patients alike. The year that followed has seen a dramatic increase in behavioral health issues across all demographic groups.
Psychiatric experts from the Kingdom of Denmark and the Texas Medical Center gathered for a webinar discussion on the future of behavioral health in a virtual world and what the past year’s experiences could mean for the future of behavioral health. This event is part of the Texas Medical Center and Denmark BioBridge, a partnership which serves as a gateway for the advancement of life sciences, specifically in research, innovation and clinical care between the two countries. The partnership fosters collaboration between academic researchers within the Texas Medical Center and at Denmark’s esteemed institutions to successfully exchange ideas, technologies & practices.
The panel of experts, each with a unique background and discipline, pointed to similar advantages and disadvantages to integrating technology into the treatment of behavioral health.
One small benefit of the pandemic has been the uptake in the use of digital tools; Marie Paldam Folker, Head of the Centre for Telepsychiatry in the Region of Southern Denmark, noted that this shift has allowed clinicians to more successfully address the full scope of mental healthcare; from earlier diagnoses to post recovery care in ways we haven’t been able to before. These innovations have brought greater access to behavioral health resources, Vineeth John, MD, MBA, the Director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Section at UT Health, highlighted the unique access to a patient’s life, outside of the clinic, that technology provides, creating potential for more customized treatment plans in the future.
While digital innovation has brought about custom treatment and created new clinical services, barriers created by the technology are apparent; “emotional distancing and the elimination of nonverbal cues are taken away in the telemedicine format” said Dr. John, adding “How do we as clinicians commit to being as compassionate as before?” The group also discussed the need for technology literacy and internet access to enable these modalities.
The shift in telepsychiatry and the increased demands on clinicians was also discussed by Eric Storch, PhD, Vice Chair of Psychology at Baylor College of Medicine. With increased accessibility for patients, quality of care is top of mind. The field of behavioral health will be best served if clinicians learn to develop elegant solutions to patient care using digital innovation as an integrated tool, but not our only tool, said Michelle Patriquin, PhD, ABPP, Director of Research, The Menninger Clinic and Assistant Professor, at Baylor College of Medicine. Patients need to feel safe and secure, and technology can both help and hinder that progress. As clinicians, collaboration with innovators is key finding science-based solutions that drive change in the field.
The program concluded with words of gratitude; digital technology and innovation are making a profound impact in the field of behavioral health and “we’ll continue to see exponential developments because of partnerships like these.”
The TMC / Denmark BioBridge is the culmination of extensive conversations between Texas Medical Center and the Kingdom of Denmark. The BioBridge partnership event series is a continued endeavor, visit our website to learn more about upcoming events: https://www.tmc.edu/news/tmc-events/.