Over the last couple of years, teletherapy has increasingly become a popular method of delivering healthcare to patients anywhere in the world. For both patients and providers, teletherapy can have a wide variety of benefits including increasing patient satisfaction and reducing cost. In addition, this system allows patients access to care without having to leave their homes or travel long distances for an office visit. However, despite the advances in technology that allows for more, high-quality teletherapy services, disparities still exist between diverse populations when it comes to accessing this type of care.
Access to Technology is Limited for Some
Even though teletherapy can have a positive impact on patient care, i.e. making healthcare more accessible to almost everyone, there is a very important concern to consider when evaluating the technology access of diverse participants, and that is whether or not they are more likely to be low income. If that is the case, then it’s likely that those low-income individuals may have less access to technology than their peers with higher incomes.
This is because poverty tends to correlate with lower socioeconomic status (SES). In general, people with higher SES tend to have greater access and use of technology compared with those who have lower SES.
For example, according to research done by statista.com from 2011 to 2021, 93% of Americans with college degrees own a smartphone; this percentage decreases to only 75% of Americans with a high school diploma owning a smartphone.
In addition, 2018 data from Pew Research Center shows that 80% of households earning over $75,000 per year own at least one tablet computer; this figure drops off significantly among low-income households by 50%.
Racial and Gender Disparities
Racial and gender studies have been conducted and widely researched to determine who predominantly works in the teletherapy industry.
For example, a study conducted by the American Teletherapy Association found that white males make up 76% of all teletherapists. This is despite the fact that whites account for only 60% of the population and men represent 50% of all Americans. Another study showed that women make up just 38% of tele therapists despite being 51% of America’s population as a whole.
Unfortunately, these numbers demonstrate a need for change within this field if we want to see more diversity among our teletherapists.
Acknowledgement is the first step
There still is much work to do in order to ensure that all people can access healthcare services through teletherapy, regardless of racial identity, gender identity, and socioeconomic status.
Also, it is important to understand the impact of implicit bias on people of color, women and those who are low income. However, in order to do this, we as a society must first acknowledge that there is a disparity between these groups and their ability to access healthcare services. The reason for this disparity is not due solely to lack of knowledge or skill, but rather systemic racism and sexism within our society that makes it difficult for some communities, especially those who fall into multiple marginalized identities, from accessing care at all.
In order for everyone to learn from each other’s experiences, as well as build empathy towards one another’s struggles, better representation is needed within telehealth companies. When this happens, hopefully people will work together towards ending inequality in healthcare access overall.
Society must continue to work to ensure that all people can access healthcare services through teletherapy, regardless of racial identity, gender identity and socioeconomic status because the future of telemedicine depends on it.
Want to learn more about E-Therapy’s stance on DEI? Head over to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page on our website by clicking HERE.