Are Videoconferenced Mental and Behavioral Health Services Just As Good As In-Person? A Meta-Analysis of a Fast-Growing Practice

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The use of videoconferencing technologies (VCT) is on the rise given its potential to close the gap between mental health care need and availability. Yet, little is known about the effectiveness of these services compared to those delivered in-person. A series of meta-analyses were conducted using 57 empirical studies (43 examining intervention outcomes; 14 examining assessment reliability) published over the past two decades that included a variety of populations and clinical settings. Using conventional and HLM3 meta-analytical approaches, VCT consistently produced treatment effects that were largely equivalent to in-person delivered interventions across 281 individual outcomes and 4336 clients, with female clients and those treated in medical facilities tending to respond more favorably to VCT than in-person. Results of an HLM3 model suggested assessments conducted using VCT did not appear to lead to differential decisions compared to those conducted in-person across 83 individual outcomes and 332 clients/examinees. Although aggregate findings support the use of VCT as a viable alternative to in-person service delivery of mental healthcare, several limitations in the current literature base were revealed. Most concerning was the relatively limited number of randomized controlled trials and the inconsistent (and often incomplete) reporting of methodological features and results. Recommendations for reporting the findings of telemental health research are provided.

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Clinical Psychology Review