Creating Equitable Access to Telehealth Services
Empowering Health Care Consumers
October 1, 2021
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth became an essential component of the health care system.
During the initial phases of the pandemic, New York State saw an approximately 130-fold increase in telehealth usage, spurred by a need for access to care when facilities were operating at limited capacity and patients feared physically going into facilities. Although the explosion in telehealth is tapering off, surveys reveal that consumers and providers desire the continuation of telehealth services. But telehealth has not benefitted all patients equally; rural residents, low-income patients, people of color, older adults, and non-English speakers all experience barriers and lower levels of utilization. More than 20% of New Yorkers lack the necessary connectivity, devices, private spaces, or funds to successfully access telehealth care at home. New policies are addressing these issues to reduce barriers and improve access to telehealth. In 2021, NYHealth awarded Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) a grant to help ensure that the expansion of telehealth is equitable and available to all communities, especially low-income areas, across New York State.
This project will support the New York Telehealth Capital Program, which will fund one-year pilot projects to develop and test a variety of community-based telehealth models. NYHealth will partner with the New York State Department of Health, Schmidt Futures, and other private funders to launch and administer the program. RPA will pool, manage, and distribute the private philanthropic funds. Using an open application process, the project will support provider organizations from across the State with grant funds to experiment with telehealth models. Selected organizations will be required to serve at least 50% Medicaid patients. Organizations will implement projects focused on designing communal telehealth access facilities (like libraries, firehouses, pharmacies, and homeless shelters) that are convenient for patients; providing mobile health units able to travel to communities and patients’ homes; and identifying other telehealth models that are responsive to their patient populations’ unique needs. RPA will integrate formalized mechanisms to gather patient feedback and ensure that projects meet community needs and preferences. Project data will be used to identify which interventions should be expanded, as well as to inform policy and budget decisions that support replication and potential reimbursement by health plans.