Earlier this month I featured the issue of affordable mental health options for self-pay patients, drawn largely from two terrific blog posts over at the Clear Health Costs blog that were part of their six-part series on mental health. Since I posted it they’ve finished the series with parts five and six, and I highly recommend both of them: Applying to a Patient Assistance Program and Telemental Health.
I wanted to explore the last one a little bit, telemental health, and describe some of the options that are available to self-pay patients (and because so many psychiatrists and mental health workers don’t take insurance, a lot of people are going to be self-pay regardless of their insurance status).
Just as primary care for our physical illnesses and injuries can often be diagnosed, treatment recommended, and prescriptions provided over the phone by companies like 247DocRx* or Connect2Docs*, so can some mental health care.
One company that is offering mental health care services over the phone is TherapyLiveCare, which appears to be part of MDLive, a telemedicine company that works with employers to provide services to employees. While MDLive looks like it only works with employers, TherapyLiveCare is available to anyone.
Here’s some information pulled from their site that helps explain how they operate and how self-pay patients can use them:
TherapyLiveCare is the newest and most advanced Behavioral Healthcare delivery system in America where consumers can consult with Licensed Mental Health counselors and Certified Life Coaches in real time interactive consultations, providing convenience and affordable behavioral healthcare services. Using the latest technologies in Web communications and VOIP telephony, the Company extends traditional behavioral healthcare to the home or office.
We offer a national network of Licensed Mental Health Professionals experienced in telemedicine and recruited following strict credentialing guidelines so that they can provide the appropriate support or intervention for your specific circumstances…
TherapyLiveCare Virtual consultations cost only $39.95. That is at least 50% less than… the average charge for an in-office consultation.
See a Behavioral Healthcare Professional from the comfort of your home, office or hotel room… A therapist is available anywhere you have an internet or a phone connection…
Our providers are credentialed, individually trained and personally interviewed by our Behavioral Health Director, and routinely monitored to evaluate the quality of their care.
Probably one of the most important things to know about any telemedicine provider is what conditions and issues they can treat. Here’s the list provided by TherapyLiveCare:
Marital and Relationship Issues
Child Behavior Problems
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
I don’t know enough about mental health to know just how comprehensive that list is, but as a layman it looks like it covers most of the more common types of mental health issues.
The process as described seems pretty straightforward: create an account online, make an appointment, and then have the appointment with a licensed mental health professional. The service appears to be geared towards a virtual face-to-face appointment using video technology (I’d assume that allowing the mental health worker to see the person’s facial expressions and reactions during the session is pretty important), so having a webcam or similar video connection ability is important. They do say they can do it with voice only, though.
The $39.95 fee for an initial consultation is a bargain, based on what I know about typical fees for therapy sessions. The follow-on sessions only cost $49.95 each, again much less than an office-based visit.
Another telemedicine mental health provider is Pretty Padded Room, which is geared towards women. They offer two types of teletherapy, a video connection similar to TherapyLiveCare plus what they call a Digital Diary, where patients can write out whatever it is that they’re dealing with and have a licensed mental health professional from Pretty Padded Room respond to them in writing as well.
Pretty Padded Room provides a couple of different packages, starting with $45 per teletherapy session or Digital Diary on a pay-as-you-go basis, up to $250 a month for eight visits or diaries. From what I’ve read therapists often recommend weekly sessions, so the Basic Plan offering 3 visits or diaries a month for $125 or the Bonus Plan offering 6 visits or diaries a month for $200 would probably be appropriate for many. The price-per-visit (or diary) in the package plans range from $31.25 to $41.67.
These are only two options, there are a number of other companies that offer teletherapy services including Breakthrough, CopeToday, and e Mental Health Center. A list including additional teletherapy providers is here: Zur Institute.
Just as telemedicine has made health care more affordable for physical injuries and illnesses, it is doing the same for mental health. For self-pay patients looking for professionals who can provide therapy services, help may just be an inexpensive webcam hookup away.