Conversations about diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) are taking their rightful place center stage in all aspects of life: the workplace, academics, the arts and medicine. In healthcare, addressing DEI means taking the concept to its broadest definition: there can be no equity without accessibility to care.
As people in rural areas, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and people living in poverty have long known, access to appropriate care is not equally distributed in the U.S. Solving the problem in the long run will take major policy and societal shifts.
But meaningful change is being made to improve access to healthcare today. And one vehicle for that change is probably in your hands right now.
While 16 percent of the population live 30 miles or more from the nearest hospital, few are ever far away from their smartphones. According to the Pew Research Center:
- 85% of Americans own a smartphone
- 75% of people who have earned a high school degree or less own a smartphone
- 80% of rural Americans own a smartphone
During the pandemic, the rise in adoption of telehealth coincided with a loosening of federal regulations around reimbursement, giving more people access to telehealth services. What patients and physicians experienced support researchers’ findings that telehealth improves patient outcomes, lowers hospital readmission rates and can bridge gaps in healthcare access.
However, telehealth services that rely primarily on video conferencing over high-speed internet created their own “digital divide” along demographic lines during the pandemic.
In urban parts of the country, 97% of people have access to high-speed internet, compared to only 65% of people in rural parts of the country. And other factors, such as age, ethnicity and gender identity, affected whether patients would or could access telehealth options.
In contrast, smartphones level the playing field by reducing a person’s dependency on high-speed internet access. Patients can chat with a doctor, monitor a chronic condition and get needed advice about an urgent medical condition.
The implications of mobile health, or mHealth, for equity and inclusivity in healthcare are substantial.
How CirrusMD Helps Employers with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Goals
Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives can span a broad spectrum of dimensions including gender identity, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, age, and education.
Sometimes lost among diversity initiatives, however, are dimensions like occupation and geographic location, which can heavily impact access to healthcare.
- “Deskless workers” in fields such as retail, education and manufacturing may not have equal access to private, quiet spaces to conduct telehealth consultations.
- Part-time and seasonal employees often do not qualify for company-sponsored health benefits and are left to improvise solutions that frequently impact their productivity.
- Rural employees may not have reliable access to broadband and find it difficult to conduct a video-based telehealth session.
CirrusMD makes it easy for human resources and employee benefits leaders to cultivate an inclusive environment, and provide on-demand virtual primary care to employees regardless of their occupation, employment status, or where they are located.
Find out why some of America’s most admired employers trust their telehealth to CirrusMD.