Eliminating barriers to health care through telehealth
As we reckon with the global health crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, telemedicine has become a go-to option for many, and rightfully so. The pandemic has changed our lives and the healthcare landscape, exacerbating existing health disparities and barriers to treatment.
Many hospitals and clinics have suspended non-emergency procedures and visits in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs — and the health insurance that often comes with it — creating new stresses and financial uncertainties. This only adds to existing concerns about the cost of care, one of many barriers to accessible healthcare. Telemedicine can help eliminate these barriers, making healthcare, especially mental health, accessible from anywhere.
Women are often disproportionately affected by existing healthcare barriers, or face unique challenges to accessing care. Some of these are structural, such as cost and access. Women on average earn less than men and are more likely to experience poverty. Healthcare can be costly even with insurance, and the pandemic has only made things worse. In April, 23.1 million Americans were unemployed and women make up a lot of the work force in some of the hardest hit industries, such as restaurants and hospitality.
Moreover, when it comes to health insurance, women are more likely to be covered as a dependent. If their partner loses their job or they become widowed or divorced, these women risk losing coverage.
Telemedicine isn’t new, but it’s having a moment to shine during the pandemic. States are expanding access to telemedicine by broadening the scope of services that can be covered, limiting cost-sharing and expanding delivery options for telemedicine.
Even better, you can get care through Alpha without insurance, or even if your insurance isn’t accepted. This is just one way our approach to telemedicine makes healthcare more accessible. Limited insurance — or a lack of insurance — should not stop you from getting the help you need.
Long distances and wait-times can also deter people from accessing care. For people who live in rural areas, services may be limited or far away, making it more costly, inconvenient, or time-consuming to receive care. The healthcare system is already time-consuming. You have to figure out what services are available to you, book an appointment, get to the appointment, wait to be seen, then pick up prescriptions and medication. As many women are caregivers, or balancing work and family, they have limited time to access care.
With telemedicine, you don’t have to worry about time or distance. You can be treated at home, without having to get dressed, make an appointment or travel to the doctor’s office. Alpha’s online consultations take less than 5 minutes. Then, within 24 hours, our medical team reviews your information and creates a specialized treatment plan for you. Then we mail your products, straight to your home, no matter where you are.
With just an internet connection and a device, a world of care is at your fingertips. Both the World Health Organization and the CDC recognize telemedicine as an option for treating non-emergency medical issues and serving underserved communities where health services can be limited.
Telemedicine patients may also have more options in terms of choosing a provider, outside of those available in person. This can be especially helpful for specific groups such as racial/ethnic minorities or LGBTQ women, who may be less likely to seek healthcare due to discrimination or lack of representation in the healthcare system. Some doctors lack culturally competent care, which takes into account a patient’s specific sociocultural needs. Telemedicine opens up possibilities for where and with whom patients can seek care. It may also establish better patient-provider communication, making it easier for patients to express their specific needs so that doctors can factor them into treatment.
Let’s not forget about mental health. Telemedicine can help address some of the unique barriers to treatment associated with mental health. First, therapy tends to be expensive, and getting an appointment can take days or even weeks, which can feel like an eternity if you’re stressed.
Then, there’s the stigma against people with mental illnesses, who may fear discrimination or rejection within their own families or in the workplace. There’s also the stigma that seeking help is somehow a weakness. Why do we think that we need to handle our problems on our own, especially when there are trained medical professionals who can help us? Rather, it takes courage and strength to recognize and seek help when we need it. The more we recognize the importance of seeking help, the less stigmatized it becomes.
Now is a great time to seek telemedicine for mental health, even if you haven’t before. Living through a pandemic is stressful, and 45% of US adults say their mental health has been negatively affected, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Experts worry and warn about the mental health crisis the pandemic can bring.
Telehealth services can help avert this crisis. It is uniquely positioned to help you through the stress of the pandemic while adhering to social distancing protocols. Telemedicine makes mental health treatment easy and accessible. Accessing care from home can ease the anxiety or discomfort that may come with going to the doctor’s office for a therapy session or collecting medication from the pharmacy.
Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Joshua Gordon, recommends developing a telemedicine plan to continue mental health treatment. If you’ve never sought mental health treatment, here’s how it can help.
Mental health treatment can be extremely helpful for coping, regardless of the nature or extent of your mental distress. Often, mental health treatment involves some form of talk therapy. Therapy offers a space for you to have a conversation with a professional about what you’re going through and how you’re feeling.
Some emotions can be hard to process, or even acknowledge, which is why therapy can be so helpful. It’s an avenue for communicating emotions like grief, fear, or anger that might be difficult to deal with on your own.
Therapy won’t make your stress go away, but working with a therapist can equip you to deal with stress in the future. It’s easy to turn to familiar, destructive habits to cope, but therapy can help you break these cycles. If you have depression or anxiety, therapy can also help you work through your symptoms.
Seeking mental health treatment is not limited to people with diagnosable mental illness. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, therapy can empower you to make better decisions for your mental health, equip you with stress management skills, and improve your overall health.
If you’re experiencing any physical symptoms or mental stress that affect your daily life, seeking treatment could help. You deserve support, and Alpha is here to help. Simply signing up for treatment is a huge first step toward better health.