Are Online Tools the keys to success for Rural Social Workers?

For rural social workers, providing care remotely can be a challenge. Nearly 50 million Americans, or roughly 17% of the nation is living in rural areas, with not nearly enough providers able to service such a population. With eighty percent of social workers employed in metropolitan areas, large states tend to have a relatively low number of licensed workers per capita. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that there are 2,157 health professional shortages in rural areas spanning across the United States.

A Lack of Providers for the Rural Population

Lack of transportation plays a huge role in declining social work practice in rural communities. In more urban areas there are many different modes of transport, however in more remotely stationed areas, that is simply not the case. Stigma is also a large issue in receiving care from social workers, especially in small towns where almost everyone is more invested in their neighbors.  Social workers struggle to offer mental health services due to poor reimbursement policies and a high no-show rate. Outcomes for those rural clients are worse when services provided are located very far from them or are just not available at all. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in rural areas rose faster than their urban counterparts. From to 2004 to 2013, small towns and more rural communities logged a 20% increase in the suicide rate compared to a 7% increase in metropolitan areas. In order to combat these alarming statistics, social workers are turning to technology to help provide care to those in need.

Online engagement solutions lend a helping hand to social workers

With a growing number of issues, social workers are using online tools to break down geographic barriers, providing quality mental healthcare to the underserved communities. Online tools are redefining the landscape of care provided by social workers across the country. The modes of delivery and eligible providers are extensive, according to the American Telemedicine Association, “patients can be reliably assessed, diagnosed and treated with pharmacology and psychotherapy in outpatient clinics with a variety of video conferencing equipment and communication protocols.”  What exactly is an online engagement solution? An online engagement solution is an online platform that allows for a provider, like a social worker in a rural area, to provide care remotely through video sessions. Online engagement solutions deliver a new value proposition, promising to narrow the gap in care between a provider and client in rural populations thus improving access and availability to receiving telemental health care.

Online engagement solutions are providing more successful outcomes for social workers in rural communities.  Are you ready to see an expanded reach thanks to your new online toolkit? It’s easy to connect with your clients, to see for yourself, contact a WeCounsel success representative by calling 888-958-2885.