Last week, I discussed the messiness of healthcare. Today I want to discuss some steps towards solutions in thinking about how healthcare is delivered. I recently transitioned back into the private sector to work for a technology startup that delivers pediatric telehealth in the school systems across the country. The model is unique in that it works directly with schools to merge healthcare and educational outcomes. This work was directly in alignment with the work that I had done at Medicaid, so I found it challenging and exciting to think about how to be on the implementation side of a project. As a side note, the importance of this work is highlighted by the impact that education has on healthcare outcomes
I started my new position on the day that the U.S. began to lock down in response to COVID and as we began to restructure the way we considered delivering healthcare. Doctors across the nation whose practices were focused on in-person care were suddenly forced to consider technology options as a means to deliver care. The “normalcy” of healthcare delivery was upended. We saw the sustainability of traditional physician practices threatened as Americans avoided care in the face of the pandemic.
And the use of telehealth shifted upward:
Reflected in those numbers is the fact that telehealth only works for some healthcare visits and is not the overall solution for all healthcare practices.
From my experience, I think telehealth has value in reducing the disparities in accessing care for the poor. Inequality in income begets inequality in healthcare. There is reluctance to create traditional brick and mortar facilities in low income areas, patients often face issues with transportation, experience difficulties getting an appointment with a provider and reimbursement for Medicaid is low. When we begin to consider economic efficiency in delivering healthcare, we can free resources to address other issues that may go unsolved. I previously discussed the need to think of ways to reinvent and change the healthcare system, and this may be one of them. Telehealth and in-person access to care should be available equally to all demographics. When we take a thoughtful approach to how we deliver care, we can create effective and sustainable healthcare system.
What are your thoughts about telehealth? Have you personally used these services? I would love to hear your thoughts below!