Joe Kvedar, MD from the American Telemedicine Association discusses how telehealth technologies can broaden access to quality care for vulnerable populations.
How does telehealth broaden access to quality care for various populations?
You know, I’m so glad you asked that because people… One of the things that we’ve also worked on at the ATA is this idea of bridging the digital divide and tackling disparities, I think we now all know that the pandemic did a lot to highlight inequity and disparities in health care delivery across the country in so many ways, and we really wanted telehealth to be viewed as a solution and not part of the problem. But as it stands, if we’re, for instance, doing most of this care through video visits, and you don’t have access to broadband or a computer or a smart device, you’re locked out and so that’s a problem, which is something that I want to emphasize, which is audio only telehealth that is doing what we can with a phone call that was never paid for prior to the pandemic, and it has been. And that’s another thing that we’re urging the Government to continue to pay for his audio only because it helps us cross the digital divide. I mean, there are many other aspects to it, it’s not a straightforward, simple solution, we want to have broadband penetration, we want to have more smart device availability, more health literacy, etcetera, there’s a lot of aspects to it, but if you take that one exception, and it is a big one, but if you take that away and just look at the idea of time and place independent care, which is what telehealth is, then it gives access to so many people. I do my sessions on Tuesday afternoon every week, and at least once a week, a patient will say to me, You mean that’s it? I don’t have to travel? I don’t have to do anything? I get to get this care service right where I am.
I mean, I have people who are shut-ins who can’t get out of their apartments, I have patients who are, it takes this one particular patient who is a special needs child, he’s 20-something years old, it takes literally an army of people to get him into the office. So that access is amazing, and of course, we wany to see that continue as well, but we have to talk… I’m sorry, we have to address the inequity part very much as well. So, it’s a two-part answer, I guess.