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The Future of Caregiving through Virtual Online Communication

April 20, 2021

By Emma Dries and Nathan Boucher

Care recipients, already at disproportionately high risk for depression and other stress, faced further isolation as COVID-19 spread worldwide.  Those living in nursing or assisted living facilities were forced to quarantine for months without visitation from family, friends, and even each other.  While in-person contact was not permitted for the safety of care recipients, the use of online communication greatly expanded in select areas allowing care partners to connect with their care recipients. The coronavirus has demonstrated how virtual online communication can be successful in mitigating isolation and be used to interface with care teams about a care recipient.

While in the years prior to COVID-19 virtual online communication was viewed as “callous, heartless and cold” these platforms after the pandemic onset became a lifeline for so many.  Since March 2020, online communication has become a popular means of connection in the health care delivery sector.  These communication platforms mitigated isolation for those receiving care and supported care teams in their increasingly difficult roles.  Care partners, and health care consumers can now more easily schedule telehealth appointments, increasing access to providers and decreasing barriers like transportation.

While virtual online communication has become mainstream, barriers in access to technology and infrastructure persist.  Approximately, 34 million Americans and 9 million English residents still lack access to adequate broadband.  Long-term care facilities that serve those most vulnerable to isolation may not have the resources to provide multiple devices for residents. For those in poverty or facing homelessness, access to technology such as a phone poses an additional barrier to healthcare access.  With telehealth’s popularity rising, adequate access to broadband and device technology will be a significant factor in ensuring accessible healthcare.

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