What are the challenges associated with e-mental health?

E-mental health can increase efficiency, flexibility and accessibility and improve the quality of mental health care, at a lower cost than regular face-to-face care. But not everyone is using it yet. There are various reasons for this, and there is a solution for every problem.

Resistance to change

Many healthcare providers have certain concerns about working with e-mental health. “But what about the healthcare provider?” is one of the frequently asked questions. Some therapists fear that the role of the healthcare provider will disappear or become less important if e-mental health is introduced. It is not in the nature of healthcare providers to strive for as little direct contact as possible with the client in favour of more digital care. As a result, efforts to adapt existing working methods are often met with resistance, which means that replacing regular care with e-mental health is generally a slow process. For clients for whom e-mental health is used, this often results in e-health being offered on top of regular care; the treatment plans remain the same but are supplemented with e-mental health.

Many healthcare providers lack the knowledge and skills to make effective use of e-mental health. A sound implementation strategy is required in order to deploy e-mental health effectively; the new online care processes must be carefully considered and opportunities must be provided to train healthcare providers. It is essential that e-health programmes have the support of healthcare providers. If healthcare providers are aware of the possibilities of e-mental health, their concerns regarding the effective use of e-mental health will be allayed and e-mental health will, in fact, enrich the range of treatment options available.

“Clients are more inclined to use e-mental health if it matches their needs and wishes.”

Addressing the needs and wishes of patients

It is also important that the client actually wants to receive either all or some of their treatment online. The therapist’s attitude is key here. If e-mental health is used as part of a treatment plan, it is vital that the client engages with it actively and continues to do so. Clients may have questions about the e-mental health programme, which may take up time during the sessions. The client should also have a say in the role and content of the e-mental health programme throughout their treatment. The treatment goals must be clear. As clients are more inclined to use e-mental health if it matches their needs and wishes, it is always worthwhile to reflect on the client’s perceptions and preferences.

Lack of motivation

When using e-mental health, it is essential that the healthcare provider is committed to the e-health philosophy and is motivated to use e-mental health successfully as part of the treatment plan. If the healthcare provider fails to do this, conflicting interests will undermine the potential of e-mental health. A motivated therapist conveys their enthusiasm and confidence to the client, which has a positive impact on the use of e-mental health and the treatment result.