Use of telehealth platform linked to higher rate of remission of suicidal ideation

October 14, 2022

2 minute read


Disclosures: Winsberg is employed and owns shares of Brightside Health Inc. Please see the study for relevant financial information from all other authors.

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Those who received psychiatric care via a telehealth platform saw a greater level of remission from suicidal ideation after 12 weeks compared to those who did not receive similar care, researchers reported in JMIR Formative Research.

“A recent survey revealed significantly elevated rates of [suicidal ideation] among 18-24 year olds, minority groups, unpaid carers and essential workers,” Mirène Winsbergdoctor, of Brightside Health Inc., a San Francisco company that provides telepsychiatric care, and colleagues wrote. “Taken together, these trends underscore a critical need for better understanding of predictive suicide risks and effective mediation.”

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The researchers aimed to examine the impact of telepsychiatric care on changes in suicidal ideation over time and on remission.

Winsberg and colleagues conducted a longitudinal observational study, which used Brightside patient records to include 8,581 US-based adults (8,366 in the treatment group and 215 in the control group) seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, or both, between October 2018 and April 2021.

People in the treatment group had completed at least 12 weeks of treatment and had received a prescription for at least one psychiatric medication during the study period. Individuals in the control group completed baseline enrollment data and completed surveys at baseline and at 12 weeks, but did not receive care. Participants also received decision support at the start of treatment via Brightside’s digital platform.

Participants’ responses to item 9 of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 were used as an indicator of the severity of suicidal ideation (SI). Follow-ups were performed at week 12 of treatment or any time before week 16.

The results showed that greater feelings of hopelessness, anhedonia and ill-being correlated most significantly (r = 0.24-0.37) with SI at the start of treatment. Sleep problems and fatigue or lack of energy, although significant, had weaker correlations with SI (r = 0.13-0.14). Although not different at baseline, SI expression was evident in 34.4% (74 of 215) of participants in the control group and 12.32% (1,031 of 8,366) of participants in the treatment group at 12 weeks.

The data further revealed that people in the treatment group were 4.3 times more likely (OR, 4.31; 95% CI, 2.88-6.44) to have complete SI remission than those in the a group of witnesses. Women and those with higher education beyond high school were about 1.4 times more likely (OR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.18-1.62) to remit than their counterparts .

“These findings align with a growing body of literature demonstrating the effectiveness of using a telehealth platform to deliver mental health services,” Winsberg and colleagues wrote.

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