Digital technology can revolutionize mental health services delivery: The COVID-19 crisis as a catalyst for change

Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Jul;53(7):1155-1157. doi: 10.1002/eat.23300. Epub 2020 May 25.


The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis presents an imperative for mental health care systems to make digital mental health interventions a routine part of care. Already because of COVID-19, many therapists have rapidly moved to using telehealth in place of in-person contact. In response to this shift, Waller and colleagues compiled a series of expert recommendations to help clinicians pivot to delivering teletherapy to address eating disorders during COVID-19. However, numerous barriers still impede widespread adoption and implementation of digital interventions. In this commentary, we aim to extend the recommendations for clinicians offered by Waller and colleagues by presenting a roadmap of the systems- and policy-level requirements that are needed. We advocate for addressing barriers associated with training, licensing, safety, privacy, payment, and evaluation, as these factors have greatly limited use of these promising interventions. We also indicate that longer-term goals should include introducing truly innovative digital mental health practices, such as stepped-care models and simultaneously providing preventive and self-management services in addition to clinical services, into the health care system. Now is the time to catalyze change and comprehensively address the barriers that have prevented widespread delivery of these efficacious digital services to the millions of people who would benefit.

Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus; digital technology; mental health services; telehealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Cognition
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Coronavirus*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telemedicine*