Telemedicina

Impact of telehealth: Addressing the needs of underserved populations

Senior man video chats with doctor online in telehealth visit

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the emerging role of telehealth in serving the needs of underserved populations. Telehealth technology is improving access to care, utilization, and patient satisfaction among underserved populations, as described in a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Telemedicine and e-HealthClick here to read the issue now. This issue was sponsored by the California Health Care Foundation.

The article titled “Patient Satisfaction with Telehealth During COVID-19: Experience in a Rural County on the United States-Mexico Border” was coauthored by Rachael Phenicie, University of Arizona, and Rosemary Acosta Wright, MPA and Jeffrey Holzberg, MD, Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc. “Most participants were satisfied with telehealth overall, rated telehealth as comparable with in-person visits, were satisfied with the quality and convenience of care, and liked the protection that telehealth provided during the global pandemic,” according to the authors.

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In “Showing Up Is Half the Battle: The Impact of Telehealth on Psychiatric Appointment Attendance for Hospital-Based Intensive Outpatient Services During COVID-19,” Amber Childs, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine, and coauthors concluded the following: “t/he current data indicated that telehealth increased appointment attendance for a high-risk psychiatric population in a large hospital-based system. In addition, these findings provide continued support for the feasibility of intensive outpatient psychiatric telehealth services as an important tool to maintaining availability to needed care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Vinod Nambudiri, MD, MBA, and coauthors, from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, examined “Differences in Utilization of Nonvideo Telemedicine Visits for Dermatologic Concerns in Underserved Populations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Overall, the authors concluded that, “This study highlights a rapid and profound shift to telemedicine for the delivery of dermatologic care to all patients during the pandemic, including nonvideo formats.” They found that “traditionally underserved and vulnerable groups such as African Americans, elderly, and low-income patients were more likely to rely on nonvideo encounters.”

The literature supports Remote Physiological Monitoring (RPM) for chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Elizabeth Kirkland, MD, and colleagues from the Medical University of South Carolina found that “RPM appears to be an accessible tool for diverse racial groups and for the aging population, but its effectiveness is impacted by health care access, primary care location setting, and, to a lesser degree, socioeconomic status.”

“It was such a delight assembling this issue on vulnerable populations. The evidence reported here can be of great value for all of us to use as we continue to break down barriers to access. This special issue will be an excellent guide as we move forward,” says Charles R. Doarn, MBA, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal and Research Professor and Director of the Master of Public Health Program, Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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