When increasing Internet use by older people meets mental health needs, a shift in behavior can occur. Twenty-two percent of older men and 28 percent of older women are affected by depression, compared to 20 percent of adults in the general population. Alarmingly, only 15 percent of people with depression receive any help. Unlike traditional treatment, which requires a visit to a therapist’s office, online therapy is done in real time in a secure virtual room. Transcripts of the sessions are available to the patient and therapist, and between-session communications is available.
A study to be released in December shows increasing Internet access among people over 65 in the United Kingdom means the numbers of those people receiving online cognitive therapy is significant and growing. Additionally, the study found a greater-than-expected portion of those patients are older men, compared to traditional therapy methods. Online therapy offers an opportunity to reach older adults who are less likely to be referred for psychological therapy by their general practitioners, said Sarah Bateup, chief clinical officer at Ieso Digital Health and co-author of the study. The therapy removes the perceived stigma by giving patients a greater sense of privacy. It also can be accessed from home, a benefit to patients with health or transportation issues that prevent them from attending outside treatment.
“This is an important study as it confirms that digital health is not just for millennials and shows how technology is being embraced by older people too,” Bateup said. Telehealth offers the promise of not just better coverage and better outcomes, but at a lower cost for both the provider and the patient.