Introduction: While online consultations have shown promise to be a means for the effective delivery of high-quality mental healthcare and the first implementations of these digital therapeutic contacts go back nearly two decades, uptake has remained limited over the years. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered this relative standstill and created a unique turning point, with a massive amount of both professionals and clients having first hands-on experiences with technology in mental healthcare. Objective: The current study aimed to document the uptake of online consultations and explore if specific characteristics of mental health professionals across and beyond Europe could predict this. Methods: An international survey was designed to assess mental health professionals' (initial) experiences with online consultations at the onset of the pandemic: their willingness to make use of them and their prior and current experiences, alongside several personal characteristics. Logistic mixed-effects models were used to identify predictors of the use of online consultations, personal experience with this modality, and the sense of telepresence. Results: A total of 9115 healthcare professionals from 73 countries participated of which about two-thirds used online consultations during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. The current study identifies multiple determinants relating to the use and experience of online consultations, including the professionals' age, experience with the technology before the outbreak, the professional context, and training. Conclusions: Despite strong evidence supporting the relevance of training in digital mental health, this is clearly still lacking. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a first, and potentially transformative, experience with online consultations for many healthcare professionals. The insights from this study can help support professionals and, importantly, (mental) healthcare organisations to create optimal circumstances for selective and high-quality continued use of online consultations.
Bibliografisk noteFunding Information:
The development of the survey was supported by the Project Group on eHealth of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations. At the time, members of the project group included: Andreas Schwerdtfeger (Austria), Angélique Belmont (Belgium), Tom Van Daele (Belgium), Maria Karekla (Cyprus), Angelos P. Kassianos (Cyprus), Iben Sejerøe-Szatkowski (Denmark), Lise Haddouk (France), David Daniel Ebert (Germany), Christine Knaevelsrud (Germany), Angelo Compare (Italy), Glauco Trebbi (Luxembourg), Tine Nordgreen (Norway), Svein Øverland (Norway), João Salgado (Portugal), Jan Zaskalan (Slovakia), David Gosar (Slovenia), Per Carlbring (Sweden), Christopher Schütz (Switzerland), Aslı Çarkoğlu (Turkey), Kotryna Danieleviciute (EFPSA). The authors furthermore want to acknowledge the following colleagues and organisations: for their aid in the translation and dissemination of the survey, Juanjo Martí Noguera (CiberSalud), Vitalina Ustenko and Oleh Burlachuk (National Psychological Association Ukraine), Anna Leybina (Russian Psychological Society), David Gosar, Beti Kovač, and Sara Seršen (Slovenian Psychologists' Association), the Associazione Italiana di Psicologia, the Bulgarian Psychological Society, the Ordine degli Psicologi della Lombardia and the Consiglio Nazionale dell'Ordine degli Psicologi.