UNC gets $3.7M to start center for virtual care equity

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has launched a $3.7 million center aiming to make virtual care available to all.

The Center for Virtual Care Value and Equity started Aug. 1 with a five-year National Institutes of Health grant to research real-world data and develop guidelines for equitable digital health.

"We learned a lot from the pandemic, and one of the lessons that we learned was, although telehealth can bridge disparities, it can also cause inequities," Saif Khairat, PhD, the center's leader and an associate professor in the UNC School of Nursing, told the Daily Tar Heel in a Sept. 11 story. "Certain populations, if not involved in the design and the implementation of virtual care programs, can be left behind."

Those obstacles include lack of internet access, financial difficulties, and language barriers, the researchers say.

"Because UNC is so uniquely positioned with so many resources and so much expertise — in population health, in rural healthcare, in innovation — we have the opportunity through this center to really chart the course of not only virtual care going forward, but healthcare in general," David McSwain, MD, system chief medical informatics officer for Chapel Hill-based UNC Health, told the student newspaper.

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