Delaying medical care can cause catastrophic health and financial problems.
That’s why early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services temporarily expanded its telehealth coverage so physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists and licensed clinical social workers would be reimbursed for telehealth services. Other payers followed suit.
Unfortunately, not everyone can just hop on a telehealth video call.
Many Latinos and other vulnerable populations—older people, people experiencing domestic violence, and families with low income—face insurance, language, health literacy, digital literacy, and digital access barriers to telehealth services. Moreover, telehealth can be challenging for people with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, paranoia, anxiety disorders, and people with sensory and communication difficulties, according to an executive briefing from Open Minds.
Leveling up from a phone call to a video call, for example, requires internet access; a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a camera; and some sort of app, which often requires some degree of tech savvy to get through the multiple, English-only steps necessary to download.
Without addressing specific needs of vulnerable populations, the telehealth revolution may leave them behind and increase health disparities.