New tools from the American Telemedicine Association can help assess a community’s digital infrastructure and estimate the cost of telehealth-based clinical or social interventions to show how virtual care can impact healthcare disparities.
WHY IT MATTERS
ATA announced Monday that it is releasing new tools developed under the guidance of its Advisory Group on Using Telehealth to Eliminate Disparities and Inequities to help decision-makers target and fund interventions that address the economic burden of inaction and improve the health of communities.
The Disparities Advisory Group Toolkit contains measures, calculators and other tools that leverage telehealth to address social determinants of health and eliminate healthcare disparities.
The advisory group is made up of national healthcare leaders and is led by cochairs Kristi Henderson, DNP, Yasmine Winkler and Dr. Ron Wyatt with David Smith, the CEO of Third Horizon Strategies facilitating, explained Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the ATA.
“We launched the advisory group in 2021 to address the unique ways telehealth could be used to eliminate health disparities in the U.S.,” she said in a statement.
Johnson noted that the tools go beyond a traditional return on investment framework to achieve economic and social values.
“These new tools build on a framework and advance our efforts to ensure everyone is able to access needed care, recognizing that telehealth is a critical component and a modality for accessing care,” added Kristi Henderson, DNP, CEO of Confluent Health, chair of the ATA board of directors and cochair of the advisory group.
The Disparities Advisory Group Toolkit includes:
- A Digital Infrastructure Disparities Score and Mapthatuses a newly created composite measure designed to score a community’s digital infrastructure on a scale of 1-100.
- An Economic and Social Value-Added Calculatortool can help scope the cost of telehealth-based clinical or social interventions and estimate the value of an intervention – including capital and operating costs of telehealth technology platforms and reliable broadband connectivity – in favor of payers, providers, government and businesses.
- A resources toolkit that includes a new road map.
The release of this “groundbreaking work” is timed to commemorate the third annual Telehealth Awareness Week.
ATA said this year’s event will highlight telehealth’s role in an omnichannel care delivery system – expanding access to quality care and addressing challenges faced by healthcare providers.
THE LARGER TREND
The passage of the Telehealth Expansion Act of 2023 in June makes telehealth flexibilities that were first introduced in the CARES Act of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic permanent.
The new law shows the federal government’s commitment to health equity and tackling SDOH, according to Kamala Green, social drivers of health program manager at National Government Services.
“It is essential to tailor solutions that fit the population of the people lacking the quality resources they deserve,” she told Healthcare IT News last month.
“Expanding and establishing permanent access to telehealth services is a great first step in providing these solutions.”
Earlier this year, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released an SDOH toolkit to serve as a data standards resource for the collection and use of social determinants data for community groups and healthcare providers working to achieve health equity.
ON THE RECORD
“The work of our advisory group focuses on creating the infrastructures and tools to allow the industry – including healthcare providers, payers and policymakers – to appropriately assess the required components in eliminating disparities, and to understand where virtual care services can help to improve the health of our citizens and the requisite investment,” Johnson said in the statement.
Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.