Access to healthcare is a basic human right for all people, including those with disabilities like deafness.
However, due to communication barriers, traditional healthcare delivery models frequently fail to provide adequate access for deaf people.
Telehealth, which allows deaf patients to receive medical care remotely via technology, has emerged as a solution to this problem.
In this article, we will look at how telehealth can benefit deaf people and how technology is improving access to healthcare.
What is Telehealth?
The practice of providing healthcare remotely through technology is known as telehealth.
Using devices like smartphones, PCs, or tablets, enables patients to access medical treatment from their homes or other remote areas.
Electronic health records, remote monitoring, and virtual consultations are a few examples of telehealth services.
It has gained popularity in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 epidemic, as it enables patients to obtain medical attention without running the risk of contracting the virus.
Advantages of Telehealth for Deaf People
For those who are deaf, telehealth has many benefits, including:
Communication is one of the main obstacles for deaf persons to get medical care.
Most deaf persons communicate primarily through sign language, however not all healthcare professionals are fluent sign language users.
This might result in misunderstandings and poor communication, which would lower the standard of treatment.
By giving users virtual access to interpreters who can translate between spoken and sign language, telehealth provides a solution to this issue.
With the use of video conferencing technology, deaf patients can interact in real time with medical staff and interpreters, enhancing communication and guaranteeing that the latter are aware of their needs.
Due to the lack of accessibility in traditional healthcare settings, deaf persons frequently encounter substantial obstacles while trying to get healthcare.
For deaf patients, telehealth eliminates the need for them to travel to medical institutions, which can be challenging for individuals who reside in rural locations or have mobility concerns.
Since patients can obtain medical treatment from home at a time that suits them, telehealth also enables more flexible scheduling.
For deaf persons who might need to balance their medical care with their job or other obligations, this might be especially helpful.
In healthcare settings, maintaining privacy can be difficult for deaf persons.
Maintaining secrecy, for instance, might be challenging while using an interpreter or when other individuals are in the room.
By enabling patients to get medical care in their own private space, telehealth allies their privacy worries.
The stigma associated with deafness is widespread throughout society and sometimes even in medical settings.
People who are deaf may experience prejudice or discrimination from healthcare professionals who may not comprehend their needs.
By offering a more inclusive and inviting healthcare environment for deaf patients, telehealth can help lessen this stigma.
As it does not require medical premises or staff, telehealth can be a more affordable option for the delivery of healthcare.
For both patients and healthcare professionals, this may mean cost savings.
Also, a lot of insurance providers now pay for telehealth services, which makes it more convenient and cheap for deaf people.
Examples of Telehealth for Deaf People
Some instances of telehealth being used to increase deaf people’s access to healthcare include:
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)
VRI is a telemedicine service that offers real-time video interpreting between hearing-impaired patients and medical professionals.
Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices can all make use of this technology to facilitate successful communication in the healthcare industry.
Healthcare professionals can remotely check the health of deaf patients using wearable technology or other monitoring tools.
For individuals with chronic diseases who need frequent monitoring, this may be especially helpful.
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Another telehealth application that can assist patients who are deaf is electronic health records (EHR).
With the use of EHRs, healthcare professionals can remotely access patients’ medical records, enhancing care coordination and continuity.
For deaf people who might need to see several healthcare professionals, this can be extremely useful.
Online Support Groups
Another telehealth option that can help deaf persons are online support groups.
These groups offer deaf people a secure and encouraging setting to interact with others who share their medical concerns.
For deaf people who might feel excluded from or separated from the greater healthcare community, this might be very beneficial.
Challenges of Telehealth for Deaf People
While telehealth has many advantages for people with hearing loss, there are certain drawbacks to take into account as well:
For some deaf patients, getting access to technology and dependable internet might be difficult.
They may find it challenging to receive telehealth services as a result, particularly in remote places with patchy internet access.
Although real-time interpreting services can be effectively provided through VRI, there is still a shortage of skilled sign language interpreters.
Due to this, deaf patients may find it challenging to utilize telehealth services that need sign language interpretation.
Lack of Accessible Technology
Accessibility isn’t always taken into account when developing telehealth technology.
Screen readers and other assistive technology used by the deaf, for instance, may not work with certain video conferencing platforms.
Despite the fact that many insurance companies now offer telehealth coverage, others may exclude particular services or place a limit on the number of visits that can be made in a given year.
For patients who are deaf, this may make it challenging for them to get the care they require.
Telehealth offers the ability to increase deaf people’s access to healthcare by allowing for remote access to medical treatment and removing communication obstacles.
Although there are still some obstacles to be overcome, telehealth has many benefits that can help deaf patients.
We can make sure that all patients, including those with disabilities, have access to the healthcare they require by continuing to develop and enhance telehealth services.
For those looking for additional support, Unspoken Language Services offers interpreting services to help bridge the communication gap between the deaf and hearing communities.