Research Proves Efficacy of Virtual Work

Given I have chosen to work virtually, I sometimes get questions about how effective it can be.  To date I have had no service complaints or outcome issues because of working virtually.  That said, I am always looking for validation that can act as reassurance for new clients.  Here is a except from a study published in The Lancelot about the effectiveness of “Telemedicine / Talk Therapy” when working with older veterans with depression.
For the study, researchers divided more than 200 veterans over age 58, who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder into two groups.Both groups received identical behavioral activation treatment in four to eight one-hour therapy sessions. However, one group received the therapy during in-person sessions, while the second group received care in their homes using video conferencing technology to connect remotely with therapists. Patients’ progress was measured using questionnaires in which the veterans rated their symptoms. Later on, researchers also used structured clinical interviews to gauge progress. According to Reuters, patients whose symptoms were reduced by at least half were considered to be responding to treatment (Kennedy, Reuters, 7/29).The study was conducted between April 1, 2007, and July 31, 2011 (Egede et al., The Lancet, August 2015).

Study Findings: Overall, lead study author Leonard Egede said the talk therapy “works for depression whether you deliver it by face-to-face or [via] the telemedicine approach.”

Specifically, the study found that:

After one month, 5% to 7% of patients in the telemedicine group reduced their symptoms by half, compared with 15% on the in-person visit group;

After three months, 15% of telemedicine patients reduced their symptoms by half, compared with 19% of in-person visit patients;

After one year, 19% to 22% of telemedicine patients reduced their symptoms by half, compared with 19% to 21% of in-person patients; and

After one year, 39% of telemedicine patients reported no longer being depressed, compared with 46% of in-person patients.
Egede noted that telemedicine can be helpful for older individuals who face barriers to accessing mental health care, such as limited mobility, stigma and geographic location.

Editorial Raises Safety Concerns:In an accompanying editorial, Charles Hoge, a psychiatrist and senior scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said that therapy delivered via telemedicine could raise safety concerns because there are no professionals on site to help in the event of an emergency.

In an email to Reuters he noted that while telemedicine “can expand patients’ options for receiving needed mental health treatment,” the “most important consideration is ensuring that there are procedures in place to address emergencies, such as if a patient reports intent to commit suicide or homicide” (Reuters, 7/29).

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In order to address the security concerns of my clients, we do preparation in advance to ensure that emergencies are prepared for.

But suffice to say, the proof is out there, that virtual work is just as effective as in person and in fact more effective if therapy/coaching wouldn’t be available otherwise.  Sometimes it is the accessibility options that make all he difference as there are virtually, no limits.

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