Technology as a Catalyst for Change

Technology as a Catalyst for Change: Examining the broader implications of technology in healthcare, particularly in underdeveloped nations, and discussing the potential for positive change and improved access to care

Growing up in Nepal, a developing country nestled between India and China, our focus primarily revolved around meeting basic needs, leaving little room for discussions on crucial topics like mental healthcare and the introduction of modern technology.

Until a decade ago, the concept of mental health remained isolated, heightened by the limited internet access and a lack of emphasis on mental well-being in schools. Any attempts at discussing mental health, such as after the release of movies centered around mental well-being, were swiftly silenced due to the prevailing taboo surrounding the topic. However, this very stigma fueled my curiosity and made me determined to challenge and dismantle the false narrative surrounding mental health in our society.

Moving to the United States, I was struck by the many open and non-judgmental discussions surrounding mental well-being. This inspired me to bring these progressive practices back to Nepal. However, I needed to understand why mental health remains a taboo topic before being able to help break the stigma around it.

While pursuing one of my undergraduate degrees in psychology, I was able to be a part of discussions on why mental health remains a taboo topic even today. Our discussions led us to the conclusion that the negative perceptions surrounding mental health are rooted in a lack of understanding and knowledge about the topic. This lack of awareness prevents meaningful conversations about the significance of mental well-being from getting started, in turn, disrupting any possibility of gathering the necessary resources to help those struggling with their mental well-being.

Despite Nepal not being as technologically advanced as the Western world, the vast rise in the use of social media has profoundly influenced people’s lifestyles and perspectives, particularly regarding mental healthcare. In the past few years, social media platforms have become a gateway to crucial discussions on mental health, fostering increased interest in psychology and prompting updates to outdated psychology curriculum standards within the education system.

The transformative power of everyday technology like phones has been fascinating to observe. People are leveraging their exposure to conversations from the Western world to bring substantial changes not only to specific topics but also to educational content and overall access to care. Inspired by this, I wanted to utilize the widespread use of social media to combat the stigma surrounding mental health and foster conversations beyond the digital realm.

In 2021, I secured an internship at a clinic in Nepal, where I curated and executed a mental healthcare project, furthering my goal of encouraging an open dialogue and understanding of mental health.

My inspiration behind this project came from my internship as a suicide hotline counselor at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco which made me recognize the absence of such a service in Nepal. Hence, with the help of my team at the clinic, I took the bold decision to establish Nepal’s first Wi-Fi accessible suicide hotline and text line. I wanted this service to be free and include a text line to be inclusive of people who shy away from verbalizing their emotions and/or due to lack of privacy in their homes. Additionally, the Wi-Fi accessibility was to cater to those who were unable to pay their phone bills.

Using technology, we were able to help over 500 people with their mental health struggles within three months. Additionally, we turned to social media to advertise our service through educational videos, podcasts, articles, and posts about mental healthcare. Our team of psychologists, psychiatrists, and volunteers managed to keep this service successful, and I am grateful to have been a part of this project which integrated simple technology and education to not only spread awareness about mental health but encouraged people to speak up and reach out.

Additionally, after my internship in Nepal, I worked as a counselor at an outpatient addiction treatment center in San Francisco. There, I was introduced to outdated fax machines for sending and receiving patient referrals. Despite our best efforts, the high volume of referrals and staffing issues led to a lack of proper hygiene in patient care. Referrals would frequently go missing during shift changes, and poor communication among staff resulted in delayed treatment for patients. In addition, the stacks of binders with patient information spanning a decade made it nearly impossible to efficiently access relevant data. This firsthand experience of patient neglect reinforced my desire to pursue a career in healthcare technology, aiming to ensure that patients receive the quality care they deserve.

Given my background, interests, and aspirations, it was only natural for me to be drawn to Concord Technologies post-graduation. Concord’s commitment to utilizing innovative technology to enhance operational efficiency and elevate patient care aligns perfectly with my expertise and goals.

During my interviewing process at Concord, I was introduced to Care Intake, which solves many – if not all – problems I faced while sending and receiving referrals as a counselor/intake specialist. Care Intake is an innovative referral management application designed to help healthcare providers process referrals quickly and eliminate intake bottlenecks. I was intrigued by Concord’s dedication to patient care that runs beyond faxes, now also focusing on behavioral healthcare and referral management. Upon reading Concord’s history and hearing about the company’s goals, I knew right away I wanted to kick off my career by joining the Concord family as a Sales Development Representative last fall.

Technology has played a pivotal part in bridging the gap between education and stigma around mental health in my home country, Nepal. A taboo topic is now being discussed openly due to the vast use of technology and exposure to accurate information. This positive exposure has led to improved educational experiences in the mental healthcare field while simultaneously improving access to this form of healthcare. While underdeveloped nations such as Nepal have started utilizing technology to build a foundation for better healthcare services, it’s been intriguing to witness the transformations brought upon using modern technology in healthcare in the Western world – with Concord Technologies being one of those changemakers.

In the Western world, the use of technology in healthcare runs beyond simple technology. Technology is used to bring improvement in patient care which comes with enhanced communication and collaboration between healthcare professionals which enables secure sharing of patient information, remote consultations, and real-time collaboration for accurate and timely decision-making. Technology also allows telemedicine, remote monitoring, and efficient data management where analysis of vast amounts of data can be achieved within minutes and can be leveraged for research, health management, etc.

I’m thrilled to see how we will continue to leverage technology to advance in the healthcare industry and how it’ll continue to play a prominent role in improving access to healthcare. I am equally excited to see these technological practices reaching developing nations like Nepal soon.

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