THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Telehealth use soared during the pandemic . Still , says Barb Johnston Yellowlees , chair of the CETF Telehealth Committee , “ telehealth is only as good as your broadband connection and your device , and if either is lacking , your access is impaired .”
PHOTO COURTESY OF CANVA
remote patient monitoring .”
The survey found that those benefits are not shared equally , however . Latino , Asian and Black respondents did not take advantage of telehealth nearly as often as White and higher-income respondents . Among Latinos , 57 % report no use of telehealth compared to 44 % of non-Latinos , likely reflecting both their lack of access to healthcare and home internet .
“ While the COVID-19 pandemic opened new access points for patients , disparities still exist in access related to essential social determinants of health , including race and place of residence ,” says USC Associate Professor Dorian Traube , Ph . D ., a study contributor and member of the CETF board of directors . “ Closing the Digital Divide holds promise for increasing health equity .”
The major barriers to optimizing telehealth noted during the conferences were insufficient access to devices , lack of affordability ( of both service and devices ), lack of consumer information and general under-funding of all aspects of telehealth , among others .
So how do we make sure telehealth remains a viable healthcare option that ’ s available to everyone regardless of race , region or income ? The CETF Fact-Finding Listening Conferences identified 20 key action steps , including increasing government investments in telehealth through infrastructure , equipment and training ; sustaining telehealth reimbursement post-COVID-19 and authorizing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for devices for low-income households ; broadening access to virtual language interpretation services for telehealth ; and expanding provider training , technical support and consumer information .
Read the Fact-Finding Final Report and Action Plan at https :// www . cetfund . org / report / delivering-on-the-promiseof-telehealth-to-improve-health-statusin-california /
Jessica Laskey is the Special Sections Editor . More at jessicalaskey . com .
82 comstocksmag . com | June 2021