Choosing Or Losing In Behavioral Health
A Study Of Patients' Experiences Selecting Telehealth Versus In-Person Care
Published in: Health Affairs, Volume 42, Issue 9, pages 1275–1282 (September 2023). doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2023.00487
Posted on RAND.org on September 08, 2023
It is not known how the growth of telehealth has affected patients' choice of visit modalities (telehealth versus in person). In 2023 we conducted a mixed-methods study that paired a nationally representative survey of 2,071 adults (including 571 who used behavioral health services) and semistructured interviews with twenty-six people with depression or bipolar disorder. We explored patients' experiences with visit modality selection and their agency in the decision. Approximately one-third of patients receiving therapy or medication visits reported that their clinicians did not offer both modalities. Thirty-two percent reported that they did not typically receive their preferred modality, and 45 percent did not believe that their clinician considered their modality preferences. Qualitative findings revealed that some clinicians did not elicit patients' modality preferences. Perceived lack of choice affected satisfaction and rapport with clinicians and encouraged some people to seek care elsewhere. These findings highlight trade-offs in policies to preserve patient choice and approaches that clinicians can take to identify and accommodate patients' preferences.