Q&A with Doctor on Demand behavioral health provider
Psychiatrist Dr. Laura McLafferty from Doctor on Demand speaks with Regence about the advantages of working with patients using virtual care options
Regence recently interviewed Dr. McLafferty, a psychiatrist with Doctor on Demand, with a series of questions to better understand the dynamics of delivering behavioral health services using telehealth.
What are the advantages of working with a behavioral health counselor using telehealth versus in person?
For patients, there are several advantages. Their wait time to initially see a psychiatrist is shorter, more on the average of days versus months for an office-based practice (if they can get in to see someone at all). This is especially true for patients located in rural areas. They have more flexibility in where they can see their psychiatrist, and they can receive care in the comfort and privacy of their home or office. There is also more flexibility in scheduling. I see a lot of patients on the weekends and in the evenings, outside of normal working hours, which I know they appreciate.
Any advice for those who may be seeking out mental health support or counseling for the first time?
Reaching out for help is the most difficult step of pursuing behavioral health treatment, I think, and I make a point of reminding my patients of this. It’s never easy to admit that we need help. For folks seeking out behavioral health treatment for the first time, know that you’re not alone, and you’re taking a courageous step.
Do people work with the same provider for multiple sessions?
For the most part, yes. I believe most people seeking treatment are looking to establish a relationship with a provider whom they will see more than once.
What if someone doesn’t click with the provider they’ve been assigned?
When choosing a provider and deciding whether to return for a second session, it’s important to keep in mind that the provider-patient relationship is just like any other relationship. Sometimes two people have the right “chemistry,” sometimes they don’t, and that isn’t anyone’s fault. For treatment to be helpful, the right chemistry has to be there.
What tips do you have for choosing a behavioral health provider online?
It’s a great idea to read through the profiles of available providers to get a sense of their areas of expertise and treatment philosophy, and choose the provider who seems to focus on the issue that’s prompting you to seek treatment. Just like patients, no two providers are exactly the same in terms of what they specialize in and how they approach treatment.
How much has the demand for online behavioral health resources increased since the COVID-19 outbreak?
My impression is that demand for behavioral health treatment was high before the COVID-19 pandemic, but demand has noticeably increased, judging from my schedule alone.
Are there themes that are emerging? What are people most frequently wanting to talk about?
There are a couple of themes that I have noticed. The first is that the pandemic and associated lockdowns are stressful for everyone, although patients have their unique stressors that they experience in very personal ways. In other words, the pandemic appears to exacerbate stressors that were already there, such as balancing a full-time job as an essential worker and trying to homeschool children whose school is closed. Also, patients with pre-existing depression and/or anxiety are finding that the pandemic exacerbates their underlying symptoms, and we have to temporarily adjust their treatment to accommodate that.
What types of services does Doctor on Demand provide?
Doctor on Demand provides both talk therapy (with psychologists) and medication management (with psychiatrists) for mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Dr. McLafferty completed medical school and residency in general adult psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and afterward a fellowship in consultation-liaison psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. McLafferty specializes in working with patients who have medical and psychiatric illness, such as patients with depression and cancer, and has been practicing telepsychiatry exclusively for the past two years.
Doctor on Demand is an embedded benefit for Regence Individual and small and mid-size group plans. Large groups and self-funded plans may opt in to Doctor on Demand or other telehealth options. Log in to regence.com to learn what plans are available to you.