3 strategies for making telemedicine more equitable 

  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the rollout and implementation of telemedicine. However, the growing healthcare technique runs the risk of leaving behind those that need it most, reported Harvard Business Review Oct. 7.

While in theory, telemedicine can be used to reach large swaths of the population in need of healthcare, the reality is more complicated. Language barriers and disparities in access to the internet and technology, as well as knowing how to use them, are all challenges health systems need to overcome to implement virtual healthcare equitably. 

Three strategies to use to ensure telemedicine is serving all communities:

1. Invest in training

As the past 18 months have taught us, the virtual world is vastly different to in-person encounters. The same goes for telemedicine. Physicians need to be trained in how to effectively communicate with patients in a virtual setting. Developing tip sheets, videos and practice guidelines can help streamline the process.

2. Anticipate needs

First, health systems need to assess their patients' access to technology, whether that be access to stable internet, video camera- and microphone-enabled devices, or quiet spaces. They also should understand which services the telemedicine sessions will be used for and establish a longitudinal plan they can integrate the sessions into to maximize long-term impact.

3. Pick effective providers

Not all medical specialties are well-suited for telemedicine. By choosing appropriate specialty providers, such as those who care for low and medium-risk patients, systems can ease pressure on emergency departments and create a more efficient patient flow. Houston-based Harris Health System utilized emergency physicians for telehealth sessions who have extensive knowledge of a spectrum of patients and could effectively reroute patients to the appropriate departments.

4. Have a backup plan

Approach telemedicine thoughtfully and flexibly. By understanding the various challenges that telemedicine brings, like financial and language barriers and technological literacy, systems can be prepared. Telemedicine providers should be geographically close to patients, too, so that if and when they need to be seen in-person, they can do so with a provider they know and trust.

Copyright © 2021 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars