COVID-19, Eating Disorders, and Telehealth

A rapid migration to telehealth is underway.

At the moment, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate and efforts to contain it, or to “flatten the curve” to diminish infection rates and relieve overburdened medical resources, are greatly affecting the provision of ED treatment.  At least two potential strategies present themselves.

First, there is now a substantial body of evidence supporting online or m-health approaches to treatment of eating disorders, particularly for patients with BN (for example,  see Zerwas et al.:  Psychother Psychosom. 2017;86(1):47-53)  or BED (for example, see: Wagner et al.: Behav Ther.2016 Jul;47(4):500-14). However, much of this development may still be at the research implementation stage; it is unclear how many such programs are already in current clinical usage.

Across much of mental health care, an extremely rapid migration to telehealth delivery of treatment is underway.  And there is actually a small literature in this regard, with case reports for CBT-E (Abrahamsson et al.: J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2018 Dec; 61:104-112) and FBT   (Anderson et al.: Int J Eat Disord. 2017 Oct; 50(10):1235-1238), and a brief review of factors to consider (Sproch and Anderson: Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2019 Jun; 42(2):243-252).  At the same time, government payers and regulators are rapidly relaxing restrictions of tele-provision of care.  Those with eating disorders continue to be in need of treatment, and telehealth seems an ideal option for many at this moment.

– SC

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