Behavioral Health Care Delivery Following the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

from RAND Research Topic: Health and Health Care at on March 20, 2023 at 06:48PM

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about restrictions on in-person care delivery and led to a marked increase in the use of telehealth. When the pandemic began, the Military Health System (MHS) was already exploring options to expand its use of telehealth, including for service members with behavioral health conditions. To inform this effort and to provide insights into the pandemic’s impact, RAND researchers examined changes in behavioral health care delivered to service members with PTSD, depression, or substance use disorder by the MHS following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including patterns of care, use of telehealth, and quality of care. Although the number of behavioral health visits in the MHS declined overall following the onset of the pandemic in 2020 compared with an equivalent period in 2019, the use of telehealth increased markedly, and service members who received care had more visits with providers. In addition, the quality of the care they received largely held steady or even improved.

The findings and recommendations can help guide the MHS as it takes steps to expand the use of telehealth, improve service members’ access to behavioral health care and the quality of care they receive, and increase the resilience of behavioral health care in the MHS in the face of future disruptions.

This research was sponsored by the Defense Health Agency and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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