Background: Clinical collateral information about patients is critical for the provision of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic care. Since the shift to primarily virtual care triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, psychotherapeutic clinicians receive less clinical collateral information, compared to when providing in-person care. Research suggests patients’ electronic and social media contains clinical collateral information that may inform psychotherapeutic care. This study repeated a survey first sent in 2018 to understand whether clinicians use this content for diagnosis or therapy, what their attitudes are about it, and what has changed since COVID-19.
Methods: An Internet survey was sent to psychotherapists affiliated with McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. The survey collected results from August 10 until September 1, 2020, and repeated questions from a 2018 survey sent to the same group. It asked clinicians whether they view patients’ electronic and social media content in the context of their psychotherapeutic relationship, what they view and to what extent they view it, and their attitudes about doing so.
Results: Of the 99 respondents, 64 (64.6%) indicated that they had viewed at least one patient’s social or 8 (8.1) viewed a patient’s electronic media. 70 (95.9%) indicated they were able to provide more effective treatment due to this information. Compared to the first wave, there were significantly more clinicians with more than 10 years of experience that reported using media in therapy (χ 2 2 =5.73, N=135, p=.017). There was a significant increase between Wave 1 and 2 in the viewing of media in adults (χ 2 2=6.58, N=99, p=.010) and a trend increase in older adults (p was set at p=0.10 to counteract the multiple tests we conducted, χ 2 2=5.33, N=99, p=.021).
Conclusions: Review of patients’ electronic and social media in therapy has become more common among clinicians at a large psychiatric teaching hospital since COVID-19. These findings support continuing research about how review of patients’ media can inform and improve clinical care.