Why Digital Literacy Matters for Mental and Behavioral Health Providers

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As time progresses, the use of technology continues to intertwine with an increasing number of processes in the field of mental health. From how providers chart and schedule appointments to how they visit with patients, there is hardly a step in their workflow that isn’t done digitally. The integration of technology throughout the field of mental health has done wonders. It has eliminated barriers between providers and patients. It has allowed providers to work more productively. It has decreased things like burnout and improved things like patient engagement. On the surface, technology in the field of mental health seems to have very few downsides, which is a true statement. Digital tools offer automation, access, and opportunity for everyone involved in the mental health process.

While this is true, there are still some things providers need to keep in mind when it comes to the use of technology and their patients. Not all patients have the same access and opportunity when it comes to technology, and this is an important thing to keep in mind. Lack of digital literacy is a common barrier that prevents patients from being able to utilize online tools to their fullest potential, making them an active barrier to care rather than a helpful tool.

What is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy is the ability to understand how to use, navigate, and figure out new technology. In the mental health setting, a patient who is digitally literate would be able to follow your instructions on how to register for your online client portal and send their provider a new message without difficulty.

On the other hand, someone who lacks digital literacy may find it difficult to understand the instructions they were given, navigate the computer, comprehend the client portal to which you are sending them, and may need help setting up their account to use it.

For populations like seniors or those with cognitive or intellectual disabilities, there can sometimes exist a gap in understanding when it comes to how to use new technology, which can make it challenging to establish an online footprint with their mental health provider.

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Why Digital Literacy Matters:

Digital literacy is important for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most important are:

Eliminate barriers:

When a client can use online tools to interact with their provider, they can connect on a more frequent basis. There are fewer limits on the ways that patients and providers can connect, which opens access and opportunity for an individual to engage in things like online telehealth visits or message their provider directly via their client portal. This is important for increasing client engagement and improving positive results.

Decreasing Turnover

With improved digital literacy, there is an increased likelihood that individuals are receiving information like appointment reminders, newsletters, and notifications regarding your organizations so that they remember to schedule their next appointment. When individuals engage online, they are more likely to come back for their next appointment.

Better Patient Experience

Often, those who experience poor digital literacy are frustrated with their providers who push them to use technology. Providers who take extra time to improve digital literacy among their patients will improve the patient experience.

Tips for Providers to Improve Digital Literacy Among Patients:

Information – The more information and education you can provide your patients, the better. A single sheet of paper with steps on how to sign up might not be sufficient for everyone. Try and remember that everyone learns differently. Some individuals learn better by watching. Try offering an instructional video for patients or walking them through it in the office, so they know how to do it when they get home.

Pick the Right Software – The software you choose to implement at your organization matters. Some software claims to be patient-friendly when they are not. Take your time and do your research. Find software that offers an easy-to-use interface that is accessible to all your patients. Not only this, but it will be easy to implement and simple for your providers to learn, making the implementation process smooth and efficient.

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