Social isolation and loneliness aren’t the first things that spring to mind when contemplating the world’s health crises. However, isolation and loneliness are more severe than many realize. This article focuses on how mobile integrated healthcare combats social isolation and loneliness.
Mobile Integrated Healthcare-Community Paramedicine (MIH-CP) is uniquely positioned to help those struggling with loneliness and isolation. MIH-CP can provide a direct solution by letting patients know they have someone to go to when in need. Still, they can also connect these patients with more resources, such as mental health professionals, primary care physicians, or home care services like Visiting Angels.
In the sections below, we’ll talk about the dangers of social isolation, why it’s a bigger deal than many of us think, and how community paramedics and mobile integrated healthcare combats social isolation and loneliness.
Why Should Mobile Integrated Healthcare Combat Social Isolation and Loneliness?
Let’s begin by understanding the urgent and pressing problem of social isolation and loneliness. One of the reasons this issue is so prevalent and critical is that, sadly, it’s easy to overlook.
According to reports, there is a strong correlation between loneliness and early mortality. As well as a link between isolation and the development of progressive diseases such as dementia. Not to mention the clear danger to general mental health.
Social isolation is prevalent among older adults. As it becomes more difficult to travel, it can be challenging to maintain relationships that were once natural. However, loneliness could impact any age group, and perceptive providers keep their eyes open to this possibility.
Not only that, but the APA outlines the detriments of perceived loneliness. In these cases, young and older adults may appear well-connected but internally feel unsatisfied with their connections.
Let’s talk about some of the practical reasons social isolation can cause issues for the patient.
Adverse Health Effects of Isolation and Loneliness
We’ll get into the secondary impacts of social isolation in the next section, but for now, we should address the primary danger to health that isolation generates.
Isolation and loneliness will increase stress hormones and reduce the patient’s immune capacity, leaving them more susceptible to catching illnesses or developing serious forms of their diseases.
Numerous studies on loneliness demonstrate that those who are lonely and depressed are at greater risk of developing many ailments. The bottom line is that loneliness is not “just in the head,” struggling with loneliness can directly burden the body.
While the primary health problems associated with loneliness are real, the secondary issues are also severe.
Loneliness and Secondary Impacts on Health
Social isolation and loneliness can have clear negative impacts on a patient’s mental health and general well-being. However, the adverse effects of loneliness can also seep into every corner of a patient’s life.
Let’s look at several examples.
We’ll start with medication compliance. For many folks with chronic conditions, taking their medications regularly can be the difference between a lengthy hospital stay and the patient’s ability to remain in their home.
When patients are dealing with extreme loneliness, the issue is twofold. First, if they cannot drive or travel themselves, they may not have any way to fill their medication prescriptions – this is especially true for those patients who live in rural areas.
Second, when a patient is profoundly lonely, they may not feel motivated to stay on top of their medications, whether filling prescriptions or taking them daily.
But it’s not just medications. Unfortunately, many patients with profound loneliness have difficulty knowing when to call the ambulance or go to the ER. As a result, these patients will sometimes wait until their condition is extreme before they reach out for help – and as anyone working in healthcare knows, sometimes it’s too late.
The opposite is also true. Many patients who are lonely and isolated become more likely to call the ambulance or access the ER, sometimes in excess. Due to a lack of companionship or connections, these patients may think every ache is serious. Indeed, loneliness is often suspected as a contributing factor to super utilization.
Ways Mobile Integrated Healthcare Combats Social Isolation and Loneliness
Now that we know how serious social isolation can be, let’s talk about how community paramedicine can help correct loneliness. As you’ll see, sometimes community paramedics can directly fix the issue, and sometimes they can help connect patients to those who can help.
How community paramedicine can help prevent social isolation:
- Community paramedics can provide regular care
- Mobile Integrated Healthcare Combats Loneliness and Depression
- Community paramedics can combat the adverse effects of isolation
- Community paramedics can rally the community behind patients
Below we’ll look at these points in more detail.
Community Paramedics Can Provide Regular Care to Isolated Patients
Let’s talk about some of the direct benefits of community paramedicine when combatting loneliness. First, MIH-CP helps people know that someone will check on them regularly. This can mean a lot to patients who don’t have a strong family or social group and who struggle to travel.
Second, even if the patient attends regular appointments at a clinic, the personalization and friendliness of a kind professional checking on them in their home help the patient feel that they have someone rooting for them. They may be more likely to share honest concerns about their physical and mental health.
Mobile Integrated Healthcare Can Connect Patients with Mental Health Teams
Sometimes, loneliness in a patient can lead to severe depression. Managing severe depression often requires more than just regular visits from a provider. The mobile health professional can refer the patient to mental health programs.
And if the MIH-CP program is robust, the community paramedics can refer the patient to the mental health branch of their program, providing them with mental health care in the comfort of their homes.
On top of combating the direct effects of loneliness, isolation, and depression, mobile-integrated healthcare can also make considerable corrections to the problems that are secondary to isolation.
Community Paramedicine Can Combat the Secondary Effects of Isolation
As we saw earlier, isolation can have devastating secondary effects on a patient’s health. However, community paramedicine can help.
First, community paramedics can help patients stay current on their medications. Paramedics can record the patient’s medications routine and physically check them to ensure they are taking them regularly and correctly. Community paramedics can connect patients with services that help them fill their prescriptions.
Patient physical exams are another area where mobile integrated health can help an isolated patient. When patients are isolated, they often lose the ability or the desire to maintain regular health checkups – even if they’re dealing with a chronic condition.
The paramedic can use video technology to do live video sessions with a physician, augmenting the lack of physical assessments. Finally, suppose the patient needs transport to a specialty center. In that case, community paramedics often have a relationship with the ambulance service and can help the patient travel a long distance if needed.
Now, let’s discuss how MIH-CP can help people feel more connected to their community.
Mobile Integrated Health Care Can Connect the Patient to the Community
Patients enrolling in a robust community paramedic program get more than regular checkups. They are gaining access to broader healthcare services.
Mobile integrated healthcare is more than another branch of healthcare. Integrated healthcare is also an idea, a philosophy. It’s about taking these separate “branches” of healthcare and combining them, ensuring that they are all centrally connected.
When patients see the full potential of mobile integrated healthcare, they will know they have an entire team of health professionals ready to help them.
Julota works to be the fabric that holds community health together, with software that easily works among different organizations and offers a secure collaboration platform that helps professionals deliver multifaceted care.
Read this article on how to build a mobile integrated healthcare program for more information on how MIH-CP unites a community. Now, let’s go over our final take.
Final Thoughts on How Mobile Integrated Healthcare Combats Social Isolation and Loneliness
We should also mention another type of isolation: isolation between health institutions. Unfortunately, many public health systems operate on islands – hospitals there, EMS here, mental health over there, primary care over here. How can social isolation be corrected when the healthcare system itself is isolated?
For patients to be drawn into a secure social net, the healthcare system needs to ensure that they are united. Integration (as used in Mobile Integrated Healthcare) is about connecting various members to create a united whole.
Julota has built software tools that can work across platforms in the hopes of curing isolation between medical institutions. Julota’s software works on a secure cloud-based system, allowing seemingly disconnected organizations to work together efficiently.