Telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Implications for rural health disparities.
Telehealth programs have long held promise for addressing rural health disparities perpetuated by inadequate healthcare access. The COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic and accompanying social distancing measures have hastened the implementation of telehealth programs in hospital systems around the globe. Here, we provide specific examples of telehealth efforts that have been implemented in a large rural healthcare system in response to the pandemic, and further describe how the massive shift to telehealth and reliance on virtual connections in these times of social isolation may impact rural health disparities for those without access to necessary broadband to deploy digital technologies. Finally, we provide recommendations for researchers and policymakers to ensure that telehealth initiatives do not amplify existing health disparities experienced by those living in rural communities.
Hirko, K. A., Kerver, J. M., Ford, S., Szafranski, C., Beckett, J., Kitchen, C., & Wendling, A. L. (2020). Telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Implications for rural health disparities. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 27(11), 1816-1818.
Find the full article here: https://academic.oup.com/jamia/article/27/11/1816/5863253
Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) urges Congress to ensure efforts to increase and enhance broadband internet access in rural areas.
The Society for Behavioral Medicine (SBM) recommends expanding access to high-speed, high-definition internet and increasing broadband width for rural communities in the USA to increase telehealth opportunities for populations facing geographic barriers to accessing quality healthcare. High-speed telehealth will allow healthcare providers to care for patients in “real time” and will expand access to specialty providers thereby increasing timely follow-up, improving health outcomes, and reducing rural health disparities. Moreover, SBM recommends that the current National Broadband Plan legislation be protected and enhanced to ensure high-quality, but also affordable, internet services in rural areas. Several legislative bills have been put forth but are not fully funded or enacted by individual states. In addition, further mechanisms and supplemental funding are needed to address the continued lack of resources to enhance rural broadband including infrastructure, research, and regulatory reform.
Ford, S., Buscemi, J., Hirko, K., Laitner, M., Newton Jr, R. L., Jonassaint, C., … & Klesges, L. M. (2020). Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) urges congress to ensure efforts to increase and enhance broadband internet access in rural areas. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 10(2), 489-491.
Find the full article here: https://academic.oup.com/tbm/article/10/2/489/5840895