Today's culture is about devices that make our lives easier and faster. Even toddlers grasp the concept of their parent's smartphones at such a young age. However, many older adults are easily intimidated by using a kiosk computer to sign in for labs.
It's common to resist new technology at first.
Although not a clinical diagnosis, technophobia is considered a specific phobia.
Therapeutic approach to technophobia may be exposure therapy, CBT, or medication for extreme distress.
Telemedicine is face-to-face distance care, usually using a smartphone, computer, or tablet.
People affected by technophobia may already have a propensity to other anxiety disorders.
Dealing with computing devices may bring on panic or anxiety for someone with a fear of technology, and avoiding computerized health services may affect their health progress. This extreme fear of technological devices and gadgetry is known as technophobia.
What is technophobia?
It's not uncommon to feel hesitation or resistance to technology, especially when the new updates come out just as one is finally comfortable using their device. For someone with a computer or digital anxiety, coming into contact with a computer, robot, or anything high-tech can be an overwhelming challenge. Although not a clinical diagnosis, technophobia is considered a specific phobia. Specific phobias can be long-lasting, intense, psychological, or physical reactions to a situation untrue to the actual risk.
Telemedicine and telehealth
One example of modern-day computerized service is telemedicine, also known as telehealth. Both terms resemble the same concept — care from a distance. It can be a face-to-face medical office visit from a smartphone, computer, or a wireless touchscreen tablet.
Someone with technophobia might resist using telemedicine. Dealing with computerized equipment could be a real turn-off to keeping an appointment, possibly hindering health progress.
Who might have technophobia?
Different types of people can be affected by technophobia:
- People who may already have a propensity to other anxiety disorders.
- An older generation who may have incorporated computer usage later in life.
- Those who do not have access to advanced technology.
- People who lack computerized use experience and have limited technology literacy.
Treatment for technophobia
Management of fear and anxiety of digital objects usually follows the treatment plan for specific phobias, such as exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or medications. Here the three common type of ways to treat technophobia:
- Exposure therapy. It can start with gradually repeating a specific detail, like turning on the device, building on achieved comfort levels, and then moving on to the next step, like learning to sign in, and so on.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. Talking with a therapist about the thinking and emotions that arise will help one distinguish between untrue thoughts and feelings, and replace them with rational impressions and views.
- Medications. When the discomfort is too great to face, a person may benefit from medications to ease the agitation and distressful feelings.
Get the basics in place for telemedicine
Taking part in telemedicine is a tough decision for someone with technophobia. Recognizing what is already used — like a smartphone — to build confidence is a good start and promotes successful participation. Verify the following also:
- A solid cellular connection. Or a personal computer with a strong internet connection will prevent delays and tensions.
- Insurance coverage. Call and find out if insurance coverage applies to a virtual office visit. Many times the appointment is less costly virtually.
- Call the doctor's office. Be bold and let them know your computer skills are limited. The office staff are often happy to provide guidance and requirements and go over the steps by phone.
- Family or friend. Ask a friend or family member to assist with the login process at the time of the appointment.
- The most accessible application. Ask to use the most convenient access you know. For many, it is zoom or FaceTime on a smartphone.
- Phone call. The simplest of all, a phone call or secure messaging through a patient portal, is okay with some doctors.
Getting past that first attempt with success for a person with technophobia is an excellent motivator for keeping the next virtual visit.
What qualifies for telemedicine?
The health provider usually decides on telehealth visits. Often telehealth is convenient for the patient by saving time and possibly money. The following are a few types of medical assessments that could be telehealth visits:
- Reporting on health goals. Relaying results on diabetes blood sugar levels, blood pressure monitoring, or food journals can be reviewed and discussed by telehealth.
- Give exam results. A healthcare provider may give lab or X-ray results with a telehealth visit.
- Minor illnesses. A provider may be able to assess common diseases that are not life-threatening but still require medical care over a virtual visit.
- Follow-up appointments. Instead of returning for a recurring condition or after a surgical procedure, follow-up via telehealth might suffice.
- Refill medications. A provider may refill effective prescriptions via telemedicine.
- Mental health follow-up. Patients may attend online therapy consultations and counseling from the comfort and privacy of their homes.
When to see a doctor
Not all illnesses will qualify for telemedicine, it's important to know when you need an in-person visit:
- First-time visit. First impressions and connecting at an initial consult are essential to establishing mutual rapport.
- It requires seeing and touching. A provider or specialist may need a hands-on inspection for evaluation and treatment.
- Listening. Using a stethoscope to listen to the heart, lungs, or other organs requires in-person visits.
- Blood analysis. A lab order to draw blood is a manual procedure — a patient must be present to collect a blood sample.
- Health insurance may not cover telemedicine. It might result in an out-of-pocket expense for the patient.
Telemedicine has excellent advantages — it is fast, easy, and convenient. To a person with technophobia, it may be quite the opposite without support and guidance from medical staff and family. Understanding and assistance through the new experience may alleviate some fear of technology. The following virtual appointment will be easy to keep.
- Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. Psychological barriers to digital living in older adults: computer anxiety as predictive mechanism for technophobia.
- Health Resources and Services Administration. What is telehealth?
- Technology in Society. Technophobia: examining its hidden factors and defining it.