Inequality in access to healthcare in the United States is a systemic problem. It’s time to bring awareness to telehealth accessibility. Improving overall healthcare coverage means removing barriers that hinder people with disabilities, the elderly, the disabled and underinsured, and those with insufficient English proficiency or digital literacy from receiving treatment. Many get left out of the picture because they cannot locate a provider in their area. Even if someone has insurance, finding a company that offers it or who does not have a lengthy waitlist can be difficult. Access to healthcare as a whole has the ability to further expand through telehealth accessibility.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth accessibility was beginning to grow across the United States. Lack of standardized coverage plans across insurers and states, as well as barriers to implementing telemedicine in health systems, such as high start-up costs and some patients being overwhelmed by the technology in place, have stifled its development. This red tape stood in the way of many providers being able to reach their patients in a more accessible way.
Telemedicine was not fully supported by the infrastructure in the United States, especially in places where usage was already limited. According to pre-pandemic studies, people who try telehealth enjoy it, and that good experience has persisted throughout the pandemic. This gives a good indicator that telehealth is here to stay.
Healthcare services have had to adapt their medical care to avoid face-to-face interaction, necessitating telehealth technology. Many businesses quickly turned digital goods into HIPAA-compliant modalities while federal, state, and municipal governments scrambled to lift regulatory obstacles to telehealth. Before the pandemic, telemedicine usage was gradually increasing.
Telemedicine refers to the ability of healthcare providers to consult with patients by phone or video from a distance. The advantages are indisputable. Not everybody has a long-term relationship with a doctor they will switch to in an emergency. Patients can stay at home to stop being exposed to pathogens and germs thanks to telehealth. Thousands of Americans, especially people of color and those without health care, have been affected by the epidemic of hospitals closing in inner-city neighborhoods. Telemedicine allows patients who live far away from a hospital center to consult with a doctor easily. Many medical offices have closed or shortened their hours as a result of the pandemic.
As a result of COVID-19, more patients will experience telehealth for the first time in their lives. They may have used visual or voice conferencing to meet with psychiatrists, consultants, or a primary care provider. Since many doctors and nurses are overburdened caring for COVID-19 patients, it could be the only way they may see a doctor or nurse. Even though the pandemic created a need for these services, it opened the door further for telehealth accessibility.
One of the essential advantages of telehealth is the increased access to services it provides for a wide range of patients. It improves patients’ access to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers. This is particularly critical in parts of the country where it is difficult to attract and maintain caregivers, such as rural areas and in areas where disadvantaged people often lack access to health care.
Today, the location of major academic medical centers is linked to our health outcomes. It’s a sad reality, but it’s the truth. Telehealth allows high-skills centers to reimagine how they can invest in (but not necessarily own) urban care delivery. Moving forward, this makes finding accessible healthcare easier and will lead to the ability for more people to reach a doctor when they need care the most.