It calms fear, offers accessibility, and it promotes healing and hope
Telehealth isn’t necessarily something new. Its popularity has been on the rise in recent years thanks to advancements in technology. But, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the industry to boom. In April 2020, telehealth visits were 78 times higher than in February 2020.
While telehealth has proven to be an effective resource for everything from standard physician visits to mental health, it has even been a beacon of hope for sexual assault victims. It’s hard to say that anything “good” has come out of the pandemic but telehealth has brought new light to sexual assault cases and has given victims a chance to speak up comfortably and safely.
Because telehealth will likely continue to expand, let’s take a look at why it’s been so beneficial for the victims of sexual assault, and why that expansion should include more focus on those victims.
It calms fear
One of the biggest benefits of using telehealth for any medical condition is comfort. While only 3% of the population has a fear of doctors, there are plenty of reasons why people feel anxious about going for a visit in person. For a sexual assault survivor, triggers are a big problem. They might struggle with things like:
- Being in crowded areas
- Riding public transportation by yourself
- Walking down certain streets
- Feeling “watched” wherever you go
These triggers can impact mental health and send a victim down a spiral before they are even able to get the help they deserve.
Telehealth can help to assuage those fears and even allow survivors to see necessary specialists that they might have otherwise been too afraid to see in person. Often, after a sexual assault, a pelvic exam is needed, and it’s good to speak with a gynecologist. During video visits, they can offer their expertise and may even be able to prescribe certain medications. Doing so in person, after an assault, can be especially triggering when someone doesn’t want to be touched.
Telehealth helps to take away that fear since victims can meet with doctors in the comfort and safety of their own homes. It can also boost their confidence and trust in the healthcare system, so they’ll be more likely to set up in-person appointments in the future.
It offers accessibility
Lack of accessibility is one of the biggest issues our healthcare system faces. Many adults in the U.S. don’t get the care they deserve because of cost. For others, it can be a struggle to find a trustworthy provider within a decent distance.
If you live in a rural area, it might not be easy to make an appointment with a provider over an hour away. For sexual assault victims, that idea can bring back triggers and fear. But, it’s more than just travel that can be a problem. Accessibility issues include everything from overwhelmed practices not being able to give enough attention to patients, to a lack of follow-up care and transparency.
Telehealth helps with those issues.
For starters, no matter where someone lives, they can have access to a physician anywhere in the country. That makes it easy for victims to “be picky” about their providers and choose the right match. It’s always important for patients to feel comfortable with their physicians, but it’s crucial for sexual assault victims.
Additionally, practices specializing in telehealth can offer more accessibility and direct care through the use of online portals/programs. Many portals allow:
- Direct contact via an email or messaging system
- Appointment scheduling
- Follow-up care
- Faster responses
There is currently a physician shortage in the U.S. While nurse practitioners have stepped up to fill that gap and both hospitals and private practices are trying to stay afloat, it isn’t always easy for patients to find a doctor right now. Telehealth changes that, since it expands their options across the country instead of limiting them to one community.
It promotes healing and hope
Reporting and seeking treatment for sexual assault has been an ongoing problem for years. One study found that between 1992-2000, only 18% of sexual assault victims who didn’t report their violent encounter received medical treatment. Survivors are often hesitant to report the assault, let alone seek out medical care for it.
Telehealth is helping with that, for the reasons listed here and so much more. The goal of any sexual assault treatment is to provide victims with the respect, safety, and justice they deserve. It opens the door for victims to feel a sense of security from the start, even if they don’t want to leave their homes.
Hopefully, as the popularity and familiarity of telehealth continue to increase, more sexual assault victims will feel comfortable enough to come forward. Telehealth could provide a turning point for survivors who may not have otherwise reported what happened out of fear. While there are clearly many benefits to telehealth, that would be enough.
(Image Source: Unsplash)
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