Despite increase in telehealth participation, underserved populations use telehealth least

December 3, 2018, George Washington University

Despite a substantial increase in the overall use of telehealth services, underserved populations continue to use telehealth options least, according to a new study by the George Washington University Health Workforce Research Center. The paper, "Are State Telehealth Policies Associated with the Use of Telehealth Services Among Underserved Populations?" was published today in the December issue of the journal Health Affairs.

The researchers examined trends in telehealth participation from June 2013 through December 2016. They found the use of live video communication increased the fastest among telehealth options, from 6.6 percent in 2013 to 21.6 percent in 2016. The use of live video communication was most dominant among working age and higher income respondents and those who may have more difficulty leaving the home because of physical and mental limitations. While telehealth options are widely viewed as being important for increasing access to care for underserved populations, the researchers found that they were used least by Medicaid beneficiaries, those with an income less than $25,000 and rural communities.

"Telehealth is regarded as an important strategy to increase access to primary care providers, specialists and , particularly for rural and underserved populations. However states have varying policies and restrictions that potentially impact telehealth use," Jeongyoung Park, assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Nursing and lead author of the paper, said. "This study aimed to develop a better understanding of how state and user demographics influenced telehealth usage."

Using data collected through a biannual survey commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Dr. Park and her co-authors analyzed information provided by more than 22,000 respondents, including sex, age and race, health status, insurance type, income and rural location. They also asked respondents whether they had used a telehealth option in the past 12 months, and if so, which type.

According to the researchers, one explanation for why live video use remained low for underserved populations might relate to a lack of available telehealth providers.

"Only 38 percent of community health centers—major health service providers for underserved populations—offered telehealth," Dr. Park said. "Policies that incentivize providers to adopt telehealth could be an important way to increase access for underserved populations."

Additionally, the study looked at the impact of state telehealth policies on usage, assuming that less restrictive health policies would lead to an increase in telehealth usage. The researchers, however, did not find a significant association between less restrictive policies and increased use. They suggest that state efforts alone to remove telehealth barriers may not be enough to increase use.

"Removing state restrictions on who can provide telehealth, where it can take place and which payers will cover telehealth services is important but may not be enough to lead providers or health systems to invest the time, energy and money to begin offering the service or expand its use," co-author Clese Erikson, deputy director of the GW Health Workforce Research Center, which is based at GW's Milken Institute School of Public Health, said. "New incentives for both providers and consumers to adopt and use may be needed."

Explore further: Tapping into telehealth

More information: Health Affairs (2018). … 7/hlthaff.2018.05101

Related Stories

Tapping into telehealth

October 22, 2018
(HealthDay)—With the national shortage of primary care doctors and—in certain areas—specialists, and with a quarter of the population living in rural areas without easy access to care, telehealth has stepped in to help ...

Legal issues impact delivery of telehealth

August 19, 2016
(HealthDay)—Telehealth technologies can allow delivery of high-quality care at a lower cost, especially in underserved areas, but there is currently no uniform legal approach to telehealth, hampering its provision, according ...

New survey highlights digital health challenges

November 19, 2018
As health system leaders look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the coming year, they are increasing their spending to defend against cyberattacks, expressing optimism about reimbursement for telehealth services, ...

Telehealth feasible for family-based anorexia treatment

August 23, 2017
(HealthDay)—Telehealth-enabled family-based treatment (FBT) for adolescents with anorexia nervosa is both feasible and effective, according to a study published online Aug. 11 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Telemedicine effective for patients, helps providers establish important relationships

December 8, 2015
More than 50 million Americans live in rural areas, and many have limited access to health care. For someone living far from an urban area, local specialty care for complex health issues is difficult, if not impossible, to ...

Telehealth unlikely to be cost effective for patients with long term conditions

March 21, 2013
Telehealth does not seem to be a cost effective addition to standard support and treatment for patients with long term conditions, finds a study published in the BMJ today.

Recommended for you

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.