Integration of Online Treatment Into the "New Normal" in Mental Health Care in Post-COVID-19 Times: Exploratory Qualitative Study

Joyce Bierbooms (Corresponding author), Monique van Haaren, Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn, Yvonne A.W. de Kort, Milou A. Feijt, Inge M.B. Bongers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated an immediate and largescale uptake of online treatment in mental healthcare, and we are still unsure about the new normal in mental healthcare in post COVID-19 times. A relevant question we can begin to ask is to what extent the experiences gained during the pandemic will influence a sustainable adoption and implementation of online treatment in mental healthcare in the future.
Objective: In this paper we aim to formulate expectations with regard to the sustainability of online treatment in mental healthcare after COVID-19.
Methods: In an interview study 11 mental healthcare professionals were asked about their experiences and expectations for the future. Participants were recruited in a mental healthcare organization in the Netherlands. The interviews took place between 7 April and 30 April 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in the Netherlands. The data were analyzed using a thematic coding method.
Results: From the interviews we learn that the new normal in mental healthcare will most likely consist of more blended treatments. Due to skill enhancement and (unexpected) positive experiences with the possibilities of online treatment, an increase in adoption is likely to take place. However, not all experiences promise a successful and sustainable upscaling of online treatment in the future. Mental healthcare professionals are learning that not all clients are able to benefit from the possibilities it offers.
Conclusions: Sustainable upscaling of online mental healthcare requires customized solutions, investments in technology, and flexibility by mental healthcare providers. Online treatment could work for those open to it, but many factors influence whether it will work in specific situations. There is work to be done yet before online treatment is inherently part of the new normal in mental healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e21344
Number of pages7
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume4
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2020

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