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AMA: How to Make Telehealth More Equitable

by | Jul 5, 2022 | News, Open Content

American Medical Association publishes its policy proposals to help ensure telehealth services are accessible and effective for everyone.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, telehealth has seen greater adoption and use in the US, with some suggesting it could help reduce inequities in health care. However, there are barriers that need to be overcome to ensure true equity in telemedicine, according to recommendations recently released by the American Medical Association (AMA).

In terms of ensuring that patient populations who have been traditionally marginalized when it comes to health care are properly served by telemedicine, the AMA put forward the following policy proposals in its recent brief:

  • Funding and implementing programs to ensure broadband internet access to historically underserved communities
  • Encouraging those who provide telehealth services and solutions to ensure that the design and content of their platforms properly serve and are accessible to populations who have been traditionally underserved when it comes to health care
  • Boosting initiatives to make telehealth technology “with and for” people who have trouble accessing tech, such as people with disabilities
  • Boosting “digital literacy” initiatives that help get devices and internet access to those who need them, and provide training/help on using such devices
  • Encouraging health systems and hospitals to invest in programs that help bring awareness of telehealth options to groups that have historically been marginalized
  • Expand physician eligibility for programs that help them buy the needed services and equipment to provide telehealth services to everyone

The AMA also highlights the need for patients to be able to access telehealth services from their regular physicians. To achieve this, they propose:

  • Health care plans should offer the same coverage for telemedicine services that they do for in-person services, instead of limiting coverage to only certain corporate telemedicine providers
  • Discouraging health plans’ efforts to use cost-sharing to require or incentivize either in-person or telehealth care or encourage the use of a preferred or separate telemedicine provider over the patient’s usual health care team
  • Fair and equitable physician payments, whether the service is provided via various telehealth methods (two-way audio-video or audio-only) or in-person