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Healthcare inequities among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), immigrant, and low-income communities are driven in large part by inadequate access to healthcare. Telehealth, defined as the “use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to provide healthcare,” offers the promise of increased access to medical care, especially when barriers to care include resource and time scarcity.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth encountered multiple barriers to use, including reimbursement, cost, and liability concerns. The pandemic forced the dissolution of these barriers for health systems to rapidly deploy telehealth technology, enabling health systems an opportunity to reduce health inequities.
However, despite its promise, telehealth has become a “double-edged sword”: the technology with potential to reduce health inequities by increasing access to healthcare also holds the capacity to exacerbate structural inequities. Specifically, in order to achieve more equitable telehealth, leaders in health care and communities must address a person's: (1) digital fluency, the ability to use digital tools efficiently and effectively, and (2) the capacity for health advocacy or a person's ability to advocate for their own health needs. Community leaders have the capacity to work towards solving these divides.
Katherine Gergen Barnett, MD
Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett is the Vice Chair of Primary Care Innovation and Transformation in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center (BMC), an Associate Professor at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, an Associate at Harvard’s Center for Primary Care, and a Health Innovators Fellow at the Aspen Institute, a highly competitive fellowship that catalyzes leaders to improve US health care.
Dr. Gergen Barnett’s research career has been focused on innovative models of care to address chronic medical conditions, physician burnout, and engaging community partners in creating feasible solutions to increase health and wellness and to address medical distrust in traditionally marginalized communities. Finally, Dr. Gergen Barnett is involved in local and state health policy addressing health inequities, national policy addressing primary care delivery, and is a regular contributor to The Boston Globe, Boston Public Radio, and multiple television outlets
Rebecca Mishuris, MD, MS, MPH, FAMIA
Rebecca Mishuris is Chief Medical Information Officer and VP, Digital at Mass General Brigham. She is faculty at Harvard Medical School and a practicing primary care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In her role as CMIO, she is responsible for the vision, strategy, and implementation of digital solutions aligned with enterprise strategies to enable the delivery of high-quality, safe, equitable, and efficient care, while enhancing the patient and care team experience. Dr. Mishuris conducts research on the intersection of technology and the quintuple aim of healthcare, currently focused on the role of digital solutions in physician well-being, quality, and equity. She is an active leader in the American Medical Informatics Association and New England HIMSS.
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- Describe the data on telehealth's digital divide
- Identify solutions our respective medical institutions are doing to bridge this divide
- Describe the role of community leaders to be part of the solution
- Develop a framework for dialogue and a discussion of next steps