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Telehealth in Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Implications for Rural Health Disparities

OPEN Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA | 27 Jun 2020

KA Hirko, JM Kerver, S Ford, C Szafranski, J Beckett, C Kitchen and AL Wendling
Abstract
Telehealth programs have long held promise for addressing rural health disparities perpetuated by inadequate healthcare access. The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying social distancing measures have hastened the implementation of telehealth programs in hospital systems around the globe. Here, we provide specific examples of telehealth efforts that have been implemented in a large rural healthcare system in response to the pandemic, and further describe how the massive shift to telehealth and reliance on virtual connections in these times of social isolation may impact rural health disparities for those without access to necessary broadband to deploy digital technologies. Finally, we provide recommendations for researchers and policy makers to ensure that telehealth initiatives do not amplify existing health disparities experienced by those living in rural communities.
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