Mental Health and Technology: Review of the new psychology service provided by Doctors on Demand

On 12-17-14 the online tech news site re/code published an interesting article about the Doctor on Demand online service, “A Doc in Your Pocket: Doctor on Demand Gets Smarter.“

Doctor on Demand is internet service that access to MDs or Ph.D. psychologists via their website or a smartphone app. The site states, “Though there is no clinical difference between Video Therapy and in-office therapy, there are tremendous benefits in the access and convenience of Doctor On Demand Video Therapy,” and goes on to advocate, as is typical of telehealth supporters, that their service provides easy access to a “pre-screened, high quality provider,” more convenient scheduling than the typical office schedule, and, in particular for psychotherapy, “Going to a therapists office can be scary. With Doctor on Demand, connect at the place you’re most comfortable.” 

The charge for a psychological consultation is $50 for 25 minutes and $95 for 50 minutes. The site is reportedly working on being able to charge insurance companies, but currently payment is cash only. The author reports that the site “is compliant with HIPAA,” but does not provide more specific information. She also says nothing about the problem of the consulting psychologists providing services in states in which they are not licensed. 

Interestingly, the director of the psychological services portion of the website is a psychiatrist, Donovan Wong, MD. He seems to have mainline psychiatric training, with a residency at UCLA and a fellowship at Columbia University. He did, however, get his undergraduate degree, in psychology thank goodness, at UC Berkeley, which may perhaps explain some non-traditional tendencies. 

The author described her experience with at psychology consultation in pretty positive terms, but also noted some possible downsides to this type of therapy session: the site is structured so that the person is unable to request the same psychologist for repeat visits, and she found the site almost too convenient to use, so that it may be tempting, she notes for people to not take the time to digest what was discussed with the psychologist. 

So there may be some advantages to people who consult us having to drive to and from the office and wait in the waiting room- they may be more thoughtful about the actual therapy session than someone who uses a telehealth services. On the other hand, many people clearly are attracted to ease, comfort and accessibility of this type of telehealth service. 

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