'We should look at broadband like we look at electricity and plumbing': Jefferson Health CEO on telehealth equity

When it comes to expanding telehealth access and reducing the digital divide, Stephen Klasko, MD, CEO of Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health, considers broadband access for all to be one of the most important priorities.

During a Jan. 12 interview with Yahoo Finance Live, Dr. Klasko, who also serves as president of Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University, highlighted the role that lack of broadband access plays in exacerbating health inequity. 

"I mean, think about this: … if you were from a certain ZIP code in Philadelphia, you had a four or five times [greater] chance of dying of COVID than if you were from a different ZIP code," Dr. Klasko said. "And some of that is because you couldn't access things like telehealth if you didn't have the right broadband."

The pandemic pushed Jefferson Health to accelerate initiatives such as telehealth to get care to people in their homes. The health system has been transitioning to a model it refers to as "healthcare at any address," to help adapt to physical distancing measures and keep patients and providers safe.

Making broadband a right for all people is one of the first steps to reduce health inequity in virtual care, Dr. Klasko said.

"There are countries in this world that have made that an absolute priority," he said. "We should look at broadband … like we look at electricity and plumbing. And that should be one of the major things."

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