Access to digital tools and services is gradually becoming a norm. Internet of things, Artificial Intelligence, and mobile apps have become household names. The COVID-19 pandemic has quickened the pace of this transition taking us from a physically oriented world to a more digital one. From cab booking and food ordering, all the way to enjoying theater-level movie experience and 3D entertainment, the 21st century has brought with it a high dependability on smartphones and digital gadgets.
The current pandemic has affected areas like healthcare and patient supervision in an unprecedented way. It has challenged the status quo while highlighting the gap in the current system. Whether we like it or not, for the past two years as Coronavirus has taken the center stage in our lives, other perhaps more deadly diseases have taken a backseat. All physicians, as well as ancillary healthcare staff, are now engaged in tackling the current situation as well as coming up with a long-term solution. It is not a surprise then that already ignored Mental Health ailments have become further de-prioritized.
In India, mental health has long been taken for granted. With the current overburdening of our country’s healthcare system, this disregard has only increased. Even though the endless lock-downs have put increased “stress” on our country’s collective mental well-being, the psychological problems of our working generation continue to be swept under the rug. Although MNCs like IBM and TCS have tried to throw light on the same by organizing regular online mental checkups and encouraging people to “speak it out”, the situation remains dismal as ever.
So has all been lost? Are we doomed to be trapped in the random ramblings of our weary minds?
Or is this an opportunity to make something better that can shield us even when the eclipse of this pandemic recedes? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Ease of Access
The first and foremost advantage of a digital infrastructure for mental care and treatment is that it can be accessed anywhere and anytime. Where night-time, limited clinic hours, and many other things limit patients from reaching out to a care official in their time of need, a Telehealth initiative in the field of psychotherapy can make sure that patients can contact a certified individual at the click of a button. It will also allow doctors and psychotherapists from different time zones to interact with the patients making it an essentially 24X7 care regime. When a depressed or suicidal patient is visited by their diseases late at night, time is of the essence and this is what Telehealth gives us.
Mobile apps are the best way to reach mental health patients and keep a track of their clinical progress. Already a Novel Digital Clinic is being run in Boston where mobile apps are being used as conjunctive extensions to provide a hybrid healthcare experience. Not only do the apps allow the caregivers to analyse the quality of life of the patients in real-time but also help to store the medical history of each individual in an easily accessible way. Although the Indian government’s UHID (Universal Health ID) Initiative is on the same path we all know how far the Indian government is from a viable digital infrastructure.
Increase Patient Coverage
Providing mental health care through digital avenues means that anybody from anywhere can get access to quality treatment options. Everybody in the world has a right to high-quality mental care and Telehealth is the tool that can help provide it. It can make sure that people suffering from depression, anxiety disorder, and other mental health ailments can be reached where they are, instead of waiting for them to come out of their closet. These diseases debilitate the ability of a patient to socially interact and the veil that digital apps and the internet provide might be the missing link here.
High Scope for Improvement
Telehealth saves time for the patients, as well as doctors. Due to the faster response time and real-time analysis of patient conditions the care professionals can focus on more pressing concerns. They can attribute their efforts to devising long-term strategies for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and also contribute to researching mental health. I can personally vouch for the fact that this type of long-term planning can help turn the tide against mental health ailments.
Avoiding Another Pandemic
Most of all, taking care of our mental health and making sure that these manageable ailments like workplace stress and everyday anxiety don’t turn into a full-fledged psychological pandemic is what we need to achieve through Telehealth. The condition of mental health treatment in India has already been pathetic without the Coronavirus pandemic. The drastic shift of focus to a singular disease has only exacerbated the problem. If we want to avoid another worldwide problem we need to act now.