The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) (@AmericanTelemed) took a deep dive on health disparities at the ATA EDGE Policy Conference, exploring Telehealth’s Role in Expanding Access to Care, Leaving No One Behind. Also, as part of the agenda, recognizing the importance of telehealth in creating platforms that are accessible, transparent, and inclusive, telehealth platform Hims & Hers, the ATA, and the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved, announced the launch of the Telehealth Equity Coalition (TEC), a data-driven project to review public data on telehealth adoption in communities across the country. Health equity and ensuring millions of underserved Americans gain access to quality healthcare is a core public policy objective for the ATA.
“The pandemic has demonstrated the unique benefits of telehealth to provide high quality care while keeping patients and healthcare providers safe, yet, this same essential service has laid bare existing inequities in the broader healthcare ecosystem. With the power of many organizations that share the same vision, we are looking forward to working alongside the ATA and other partners to focus on equity and expand access to safe, high quality telehealth care for all,” said April Mims, Vice President of Policy, Hims & Hers.
TEC was formed to improve access to quality and affordable healthcare by increasing adoption of telehealth, especially among those who have been left out or left behind. Together with nonprofit, academic, and industry partners, TEC will offer a unique voice to optimize equitable telehealth delivery and utilization.
“It is imperative that we take this unprecedented opportunity exposed by the public health emergency to permanently break down the barriers of health equities for vulnerable and rural populations and ensure no one, anywhere, is left behind,” said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO, the ATA. “Our ATA Policy Principles include expanding access for underserved and at-risk populations as a core objective of our work. We are looking forward to advancing the important work of TEC and exploring how technology and personal health can lead the way to health equity.”
The National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT) will offer members of this coalition access to its Data Fusion Center, a project that brings together experts from industry, academia, and communities to assess and measure important indicators of access and use of telehealth. Other founding members of TEC include Adaptation Health, BlackDoctor.org, Foley & Lardner, Grapevine Health, Howard University Department of Community & Family Medicine, Health Innovation Alliance, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the National MS Society, and TechNet.
“So much of our recent focus has been on leveraging telehealth in response to the public health emergency, and rightly so. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that telehealth is not just a ‘COVID solution’ but it is a critical tool in healthcare delivery,” added Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Chair of the ATA Board; Professor of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School; Senior Advisor, Virtual Care, Mass General Brigham; and Editor, npj Digital Medicine. “Most provider organizations are now doing 15% to 25% of their ambulatory activity via telehealth, creating an appropriate balance of in-person and virtual care. It is clearly time to make telehealth a legitimate care delivery channel for the long haul by tackling policy, reimbursement, and implementation challenges, and resolving health disparities that have long plagued our healthcare system.”
The final EDGE Policy sessions featured thought leaders and policymakers discussing the steps needed to break down the barriers of health equities for vulnerable and rural populations, including Mignon L. Clyburn, the first woman head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Representative Harold Love (D-TN), Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), Senator Todd Young (R-IN), and Adaeze Enekwechi, a leading voice in health policy.
About the ATA
As the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth, the American Telemedicine Association is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people. The ATA represents a broad and inclusive member network of leading health care delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, working to advance industry adoption of telehealth, promote responsible policy, advocate for government and market normalization, and provide education and resources to help integrate virtual care into emerging value-based delivery models.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All ATA EDGE Policy programming from this four-part virtual event (January 12, 19, 26 and February 2) has been recorded and available on demand content for registered attendees. Registration will remain open post-conference for access to the full program. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for media registration.