We can do an extraordinary number of things with our phones. They are lifelines that serve as our emergency contacts, maps, planners, journals, clocks and our main way to access friends and family at all times. Most recently, with the release of the Apple Watch, improved Fit Bit and many other 24 hour monitoring devices, we are able to track almost everything our body does and how it’s performing. But soon, due to a new innovation in the world of healthcare, they will also be a direct link to our doctors and medical appointments. This innovation is known as telehealth or “mobile healthcare” and encompasses everything from emergency calls to writing prescriptions.
There is little else more important than health and wellbeing. As a result, healthcare has been long established as a fundamental necessity. However, for many LGBT, especially homeless, vulnerable LGBT youth, healthcare is often too difficult to obtain. It’s a discouraging fact that a disproportionate number (Over 40 percent) of homeless youth on the street today identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. An alarming fact, especially when weighed against the fact that 81 percent of LGBT youth are reported to search for medical related information online as opposed to only 46 percent of non-LGBT youths. (Statistic from LGBT Tech’s Connect 4 Life report.)
If implemented and regulated correctly, telehealth will provide quick access to medical professionals concerning physical illnesses and allow those who are homeless or without a stable home to keep vital health appointments when finances or transportation are limited. Mobile healthcare could also greatly reduce the cost of a single appointment while giving the individual access to the best or most appropriate doctors. Currently, it takes nearly a three-week wait time in the United States from scheduling an appointment to having an actual visit with a physician. This wait time can be deadly in some undiagnosed emergencies.
Perhaps the most significant impact of telehealth will not come from a physical standpoint, but it’s mental health prospects. Many LGBT youth who are homeless suffer from mental anxiety, depression, panic-attacks or other mental health related issues. Even more, these conditions often remain undiagnosed in many people, doing real damage over time. And, in those that do seek therapy, there is a nearly five-week wait to speak with a mental health professional.
Telehealth reduces this wait to mere minutes, a fact that could reduce the number of suicides caused each year from these disorders. The platform of telehealth will be even more of an impact to this often disenfranchised demographic due to the fact that 55 percent of LGBT youth prefer to use a phone to a laptop or a desktop and 50 percent already use their phones to connect with others around them — namely in making friends and relating to others like them. The ability to contact a professional or receive a prescription right from a phone could close a severe gap in those that need medical attention and those who receive it. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of health-care visits could be adapted to virtual visits within the next ten years. This will reduce the weighty cost of healthcare, provide up-to-date medical information, and serve as life-saving mental healthcare to those that need it. Telehealth could potentially provide an amazing breakthrough in the frontier of quick, quality healthcare. For the LGBT population, this cannot come quickly enough. LGBT Tech will continue to monitor and weigh in on these issues as they relate to the LGBT Community.
Originally published Huffington Post on 1/26/2016