How can E-Health Improve Treatment of Mental Health Issues?

E-health is short for electronic health and describes treatments of patients with the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This new technology cannot only be used for treatment of physical problems but also for mental issues such as anxiety and depression. E-health enables better access to services, improved treatment and the reduction of anxiety and depression.

E-mental health programs reduce barriers such as location, finances and stigma. Many people suffering from mental issues do not have the possibility to consult a therapist due to lack of mobility or money. Additionally, mental disorders are still stigmatized and therefore it is often not easy for people to start therapy. E-health programs eliminates these issues and offer a new and effective way to treat people who are confronted with mental issues. The idea behind e-mental health programs is to combine these new programs with traditional mental health services.

E-health services include:

  • health promotion
  • symptom prevention
  • early intervention
  • treatment services

There are two primary categories of e-mental health service:

  1. information, support and assessment sites: These sites offer users information, peer networks, screening and diagnostic assessments.
  1. symptom prevention and management programs: These programs are designed to prevent or treat mental issues including depressions and anxiety. Programs are based on evidence-based face-to-face delivery models such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy and bibliotherapy. Other approaches focus on self-help and guided self-help.

Are E-Mental Health Programs Effective?

Evidence-based e-mental health programs are clinically effective. These programs can reduce mild to moderate depressions and anxiety including social phobia, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Treatment many include guidance from a clinician, a technician, automated or peer-moderated assistance. It is important to underline that such e-mental health programs cannot be used to treat people who are suicidal or experiencing psychosis.

As already mentioned, there are many benefits to e-mental health programs. These services can overcome traditional barriers, they offer more convenient and flexible services and better access to medical treatment. Moreover, e-mental health services make it easier for people to choose care that fits their needs. There are also advantages for health professionals since e-mental health programs can used as a complement to traditional treatment and to improve access to professional education and support resources.

As groundbreaking as e-mental health programs are, there are still challenges that have to be tackled by experts. Some of the most common issues related to e-health and mental disorder treatments are:

  • professional, legal, social, technical, ethical and financial considerations
  • confidentiality and privacy issues
  • design, presentation and clinical basis of e-mental health programs
  • online and digital health literacy

beyondblue Information Paper
mHealth Solutions for Improving Mental Health and Illnes in the Aging Process
Christensen, H. & Hickie, I. B.: Using e-health applications to deliver new mental health services