Many people lack access to high-quality health care, but the explosive increase in telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic had some providers wondering if virtual care could help balance out these inequities. In theory, virtual care should make it easier and more cost-effective to access care as people don’t need to travel for appointments, among other benefits. However, studies have shown that while telemedicine has the potential to make health care more equitable, there are a number of issues that could exacerbate current inequities, such as lack of access to high-quality internet and devices.
With these challenges in mind, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently released a list of policy proposals to help ensure that telemedicine services actually improve access to quality health care among groups that have been traditionally marginalized, rather than adding to already existing inequities.
In a nutshell, their key policy proposals focus on:
- Ensuring underserved communities have access to the devices and broadband internet required for telemedicine services and the training needed to use such technologies effectively
- Enabling underserved communities to work with telemedicine service providers to ensure those services are designed to meet their needs and are easily accessible
- Increasing awareness of telemedicine options among underserved groups
- Making sure physicians have the resources they need to provide telemedicine services to all groups
- Encouraging health care plans to cover in-person and virtual services equally
The AMA also lists recommendations for ensuring that underserved groups can access telemedicine services from their usual, trusted care team, rather than having to use the service from a different health care provider. Those proposals include: ensuring equitable and fair physician payments, whether services are offered via telemedicine or in-person, and discouraging health plans from incentivizing the use of other care teams over patients’ usual health care providers for telemedicine. Forcing people to use physicians who are unfamiliar with them could negatively impact the quality of their care, the AMA points out.
Above all, to ensure telemedicine services offer the same value to everyone, historically underserved groups need to be included in designing and implementing these services, the AMA says.
“To realize telehealth’s full potential, the AMA believes that those developing and implementing telehealth solutions must prioritize partnerships with historically marginalized and minoritized populations to ensure that solutions are designed to be accessible and work well for all,” the association says.
To find out more, read this news story from TCL’s partner brand, G2 Intelligence.