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Health Equity: Solving the Digital Healthcare Divide

As most of us know, telehealth expanded exponentially in 2020. Some of us are less aware how satisfied patients seem to be with it. In a recent study in the Journal of Patient Experience, 86% of telehealth users expressed satisfaction.

What’s more, satisfaction is high even in branches of medicine that traditionally require face-to-face interaction. For example, in a recent 100-patient study among orthopedic specialists, 4.76/5 patients stated excellent satisfaction with their visit.

For my part, I applaud the expansion of optimal telehealth. It is the surest way to offer excellent care to all, and especially to members of traditionally underserved communities.

However, it is not enough for health systems to “tick the box” by offering some version of telehealth. Instead, health professionals should take careful consideration of several important elements:

Telehealth Needs to Be Part of the Framework

Telehealth needs to become an operational part of a practice. It is imperative that it not be treated as a separate unicorn. Rather, telehealth is a tool through which a health team can provide excellent care to their patients. In this way, the path of improvement depends on our incorporating telehealth into the framework of excellent care.

“Normal” Healthcare Can Become Something More

On the same token, the inclusion of telehealth in the framework of care means a progression of what “normal” healthcare is. “Normal” can now include an active connection between care teams and patients, even when considerable time passes between in-person visits.

Solving For Barriers

Finally, the barriers of hardware and broadband internet access persist. Strive MedTech is one company that offers grant opportunities for patients and care teams who lack necessary hardware. This is crucial because even if excellent care is offered, without appropriate tools, no one can access it.

Other companies, like SpaceX, are working to solve for the widespread lack of access to broadband internet. Specifically, SpaceX has developed a program called StarLink.***

I hope leaders can attach that barrier to a true opportunity: if people everywhere recognize that expanding broadband access truly means progress, then universally available broadband will come soon.

Solving these two barriers would mean more people equipped to access excellent care. If that is not progress, then I’d like to hear what is.

Shana Kettunen, MBA (Chief Operating Officer of Strive MedTech) has over 15 years of diverse healthcare experience and enjoys bringing together multifaceted teams to change the way healthcare is delivered. Shana began clinically as a sonographer before developing as a leader in business development/telemedicine and finally joining Strive MedTech. When the pandemic hit, she was Director of Telemedicine for a health system and navigated the rapid expansion of virtual care to include almost every service line.

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