There is no doubt that the current pandemic has created numerous obstacles for each of us. For those who were receiving in-person therapeutic services before the pandemic, the challenges were felt almost immediately. Scheduled appointments were put on hold indefinitely while healthcare officials scrambled to figure out how to best assist the community in need.
In 2019, 19.2% of adults reported receiving some form of mental health treatment, and 9.5% had received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional. As the pandemic took 2020 in a completely unexpected direction, people who depended on consistent mental health services were faced with sudden instability in their options for care. While healthcare providers and treatment professionals worked to find solutions for their patients, many people felt the immediate whiplash of change when in-person therapy came to a halt.
Between social distancing requirements and widespread fear of coming into contact with the virus, many people who need mental health services were no longer receiving the care they depended on. Furthermore, we saw a huge spike in mental illness symptoms across every section of the population as the pandemic’s compounding stress grew to affect nearly every aspect of our lives.
What Are Telehealth Services?
Although many people were unaware of telehealth services’ availability until the 2020 pandemic, this type of care was first used as a form of healthcare delivery in the late 1960s. The purpose of telehealth services is to allow a person to receive assistance in their homes’ comfort and safety by communicating through their smartphones or other mobile devices. In light of the restrictions caused by the ongoing pandemic, including social distancing requirements and widespread reluctance to meet in person, telehealth services offer a uniquely accessible approach for patients and staff alike to connect and continue care.
The Challenges Posed By Telehealth
As convenient as it is, telehealth isn’t a perfect solution. The lack of in-person services posed difficulties and complications with intakes, comprehensive assessments, and patient engagement. Some healthcare providers reported needing solutions for patients who couldn’t communicate through phone or video conferencing due to a lack of privacy in their living situations. The lack of in-person services also made it challenging for medical personnel to monitor medication and administer direct treatment.
On top of struggling to navigate the new world of online services, medical staff also had to quickly ascertain how to implement safe, effective care for their patients. Staff grappled with technological issues, a lack of HIPAA-compliant platforms, and the fact that telehealth options made it more difficult to foster a personal connection with their patients, which served to negatively counteract their efforts towards offering a successful therapeutic process.
While staff encountered obstacles as they attempted to reach their patients, their patients reported a dramatic rise in the negative emotions reported across the country. More people than ever were experiencing trouble with anxiety and depression due to problems related to the pandemic and the way that they were compounded by lack of direct treatment options.
The Digital Divide
Since the advent of the digital age, staff and patients alike have faced the increasing challenge posed by the divide that forms when all individuals are expected to rely upon technology. To people with fewer socioeconomic resources, struggling with disabilities, or living in disadvantaged areas, being able to depend on reliable access to technology isn’t always an option.
Pew Research reported that people with disabilities, both physical and psychiatric, were three times more likely never to utilize online services and that about 20% did not even own an electronic device that could give them access to telehealth services.
Exercising Caution With In-Person Services
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and numerous other healthcare officials have stressed the importance of social distancing. Many people are worried about coming into contact with someone infected with the COVID-19 virus or spreading it themselves, making the prospect of attending in-person services seem scary and irresponsible in many. For some, however, in-person services are the only way to receive the care they need.
Many organizations, such as Achieve Medical Center, are taking every necessary precaution to provide in-person services to those in need while keeping everyone safe. At Achieve Medical Center, we leave ample space in between each appointment to allow for social distancing. Staff members wear masks at all times and thoroughly disinfect treatment areas between all sessions. The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty and discomfort, causing many to disregard their treatment needs. Remember that your mental wellness and your safety are both important parts of a healthy life.
No matter what else is happening in your life, your mental well-being should always be a priority. While telehealth services provide numerous benefits to those who can access them, they may not be perfect for meeting your needs. Both staff and patients have complained about the inability to connect and not being able to gain efficient care through telehealth services. For some individuals, having reliable access to telehealth services is simply not an option. While the ongoing pandemic has tremendously decreased the availability of in-person services, there are still some forms of care available to those in need. Treatment centers like Achieve Medical Center want you to get the help that works for you while respecting your boundaries and ensuring your safety at all times. You don’t have to go it alone. To learn more about how our services can help make a difference, call Achieve Concierge today at (619) 393-5871.