Tony Leys is Rural Editor/Correspondent for Kaiser Health News, where this story was first published. Follow him on Twitter @TonyLeys.
KNOXVILLE, Iowa ― Bette Helm was glad to have someone to talk with about her insomnia.
Helm lives in a nursing home in this central Iowa town of about 7,500 people, where mental health services are sparse. On a recent morning, she had an appointment with a psychiatric nurse practitioner about 800 miles away in Austin, Texas. They spoke via video, with Helm using an iPad she held on her lap while sitting in her bed.
Video visits are an increasingly common way for residents of small-town nursing homes to receive mental health care. Patients don’t have to travel to a clinic. They don’t even have to get cleaned up and leave their bedrooms, which can be daunting for people with depression or anxiety. Online care providers face fewer appointment cancellations, and they often can work from home. While use of some other telehealth services may dwindle as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, providers predict demand for remote mental health services will continue to increase in rural nursing homes.