Telehealth is a term used to define the use of telecommunication technology for medical purposes. By using this technology, patients are able to connect with doctors and care providers from anywhere in the United States without having to travel to a hospital or clinic.
Unfortunately, there are inequities in healthcare when it comes to telehealth, and this is an unresolved issue in the United States. Many factors cause telehealth inequities, such as wealth discrepancies, cultural differences, and socioeconomics.
Here is an overview of telehealth inequities and possible ways to address them.
Here are two examples of how there is an uneven playing field when it comes to telehealth.
Better telehealth in urban areas over rural areas.
The convenience and affordability of telehealth make it a growing trend for those living in urban areas. Telehealth has become a popular option for people who live in urban areas and would rather not travel when they need medical assistance. It is also becoming more affordable due to technological advancements in telecommunication systems like better Internet service.
It is much easier for people who live in urban areas to participate in telehealth treatments as compared to rural communities where there are fewer health care options and physicians that can provide telehealth services.
Better telehealth in wealthier locales.
Wealthier areas had better access to telehealth despite having more health insurance coverage and living in a higher quality of life than those living in less affluent areas.
People living in less affluent areas may suffer from more barriers to accessing healthcare than those who live in wealthier locales, but there are still ways that telehealth can help them get the care they need.
Addressing Telehealth Inequities
Telehealth has been touted as a new frontier in global healthcare access and control for remote populations, but there are also major obstacles to overcome.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is in the U.S. healthcare ecosystem itself, where there are significant gaps between health insurance coverage and the need for telehealth services.
Rethinking the distribution of telehealth and the reimbursement system appear to be the best way to create more equitable telehealth services in the United States.
Telehealth has emerged as a promising solution to many healthcare issues, but it has not been without its own challenges and is creating socioeconomic disparities that could last for decades until more equitable access factors are addressed.