The Milbank Quarterly: Rapid Transition to Telehealth and the Digital Divide: Implications for Primary Care Access and Equity in a Post-COVID Era
This study analyzed data about small primary care practices’ telehealth use and barriers to telehealth use collected from rapid-response surveys administered by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of Equitable Health Systems and New York University from mid-April through mid-June 2020. While all providers rapidly shifted to telehealth, there were differences based on community characteristics in both the primary mode of telehealth used and the types of barriers experienced by providers. The report concludes that to ensure greater telehealth equity, policy changes should address barriers faced overwhelmingly by marginalized patient populations and those who serve them.
- Telehealth has many potential advantages during an infectious disease outbreak such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to telehealth as a prominent care delivery mode.
- Not all health care providers and patients are equally ready to take part in the telehealth revolution, which raises concerns for health equity during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Without proactive efforts to address both patient- and provider-related digital barriers associated with socioeconomic status, the wide-scale implementation of telehealth amid COVID-19 may reinforce disparities in health access in already marginalized and underserved communities.
- To ensure greater telehealth equity, policy changes should address barriers faced overwhelmingly by marginalized patient populations and those who serve them.