Since Covid-19 began its spread across the nation, the healthcare industry has scrambled to set up comprehensive telehealth services across the country. Psychiatric centers, therapists, counselors, and more have begun moving their appointments to an entirely virtual space. While this allows for safer meetings between patients and medical professionals, is it something to which all Americans have equal access?
The short answer to this question is no. While many Americans have gained access to technology like smartphones and the like in recent years, there is still a sizable portion of the population (roughly 30% of families earning below $30K/year) that can’t afford them. The number is even higher when it comes to owning a traditional computer (46%) and having access to a broadband internet connection (44%). Additionally, most working-class American families are not tablet owners.
Socioeconomic disparity like this plays a large role in access to virtual care. As medical professionals move into online spaces, they are effectively cutting low-income Americans out–and that’s not all. The elderly are overwhelmingly at a disadvantage when we’re discussing telehealth – over 77% of geriatric patients struggle with virtual care due to a combination of cognitive decline, hearing/visual disabilities, and anxiety.
Another group affected negatively by this telehealth transition are those Americans with language deficiency issues, including those with speech impairments and the lessened ability to speak or understand English. While video conferencing applications like Zoom do offer additional language tools to aid such patients, the fact is that the combination of virtual appointments and difficult language used in healthcare settings has drastically lowered meeting attendance rates for members of this population.
With so many populace members negatively affected by the switch into telehealth, the recommended course of action is as follows. First, audio-only appointments need to happen more often and in conjunction with video-conferencing software to guide patients who have problems using technology more fully. Healthcare providers also need to address the lack of information and educational content available to patients who have difficulty speaking and understanding English.
Telemedicine companies such as Ourdoctor, have had a positive impact and have narrowed the negatives that can come with using telemdicine. Ourdoctor is very easy to use. One of the biggest benefits of signing up for Ourdoctor telehealth services is that you do not have to have insurance. Visit Ourdoctor.com to learn more.