In these times how we communicate, build skills, find vital resources, access employment, and better ourselves is mainly done through technology, and the access to mobile devices.
However there is a major digital divide in who has access to these devices. Based off research conducted by the Pew Research Center:
- 29% of adults with annual household incomes below $30,000 do not own a smartphone
- 44% don't have home broadband services
- 46% do not own a computer.
So the question that arises is: How can one stay connected and communicate their health needs with secure, and uninterrupted access to the internet via mobile devices when socio-economic forces do not support this?
One of the major barriers to accessing Mental Health services, especially during this pandemic, is access to technology. However, this barrier goes both ways, Health Care Providers are also facing barriers to adopt Telepsychiatry in order to provide for their patients during this time.
A study mentions that, there is a clear disparity that is represented within the public county health systems, which leads to a widening gap between those who receive adequate treatment for mental illness and those who do not.... Most health systems, particularly those dealing with underserved populations, are technologically ill-equipped.
Access instability is a massive problem that obstructs the unhoused population's ability to access technology, and therefore any health services. LA has seen an increase of homelessness of 12% since the beginning of 2020, how much can we expect these barriers to be exasperated? What can nonprofits, and you, do to help?
On the Health Care Provider side, what forms of Telepsychiatry are lacking and obstructing one’s ability to provide services to those in need? Lastly, how can Telepsychiatry be more accessible to the 47.5% of Los Angeles who are Hispanic and/or Latino, the 13.8% who are Asian, and the 13.6% who are elderly? What can be done?
The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) directly operates programs in more than 85 sites and provides services through contract programs and LACDMH staff at approximately 300 sites co-located with other County departments, schools, courts and various organizations. LACDMH budget should be allocated to consistent videoconferencing services, dedicated to outpatient psychiatric evaluations and follow-up appointments, and collaboration among healthcare and social work professionals. For professionals, mandatory training should be implemented to utilize these services.
Outreach and Engagement Services, a subset of the LACDMH, identifies, provides care and follows up with vulnerable populations, helping over 20,000 people annually. This team can be helpful in following engagement with telepsychiatry interventions and can lead to a more longitudinal relationship between each patient and all of his or her providers.
To read the full report head to Challenges faced by mental health providers and patients during the coronavirus 2019 pandemic due to technological barriers.