Carter Lee|6/19/2023|3 min read

5 Ways Telehealth Promotes Health Equity

Discover how virtual care works to eliminate health disparities

Close up of two people holding hands

Since telehealth’s inception, it has made many significant impacts on the healthcare industry. One of which has been increasing health equality for individuals across different socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly those who have been historically marginalized. 

Health equity refers to ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to achieve optimal health outcomes, regardless of social, economic or demographic factors. It recognizes that people have different starting points in life, and that health disparities exist due to systemic and structural factors. These factors include poverty, discrimination and limited access to resources and opportunities. 

Health equity aims to eliminate these disparities in health status, as well as increase access to healthcare. It seeks to do this by addressing the root causes of inequities and promoting fairness in the distribution of resources and opportunities. Telehealth plays a crucial role in increasing health equity by addressing various barriers and providing equitable access to healthcare services. 

1. Overcoming geographic barriers

One of the key ways telehealth is improving health equity is by overcoming geographical barriers. In rural areas and underserved communities, accessing quality healthcare has been a long standing challenge. This is often due to limited medical facilities and transportation options for patients. 

Telehealth helps eliminate these barriers by allowing individuals to connect with healthcare professionals from anywhere. Virtual care appointments allow patients to discuss their symptoms, receive medical advice and even get prescriptions. This saves patients the time, cost and effort associated with traveling long distances for in-person appointments.

2. Reducing healthcare disparities in underserved communities

Underserved communities, such as low-income neighborhoods and marginalized populations, often face significant healthcare disparities. 

Cost disparities

Financial constraint is one of these significant barriers. Telehealth offers a cost-effective alternative to in-person visits by eliminating the expenses associated with transportation, such as fuel costs and public transportation fees. 

Additionally, telehealth visits often have lower consultation fees compared to traditional in-person visits. By reducing this financial burden, telehealth helps ensure that underserved communities can access healthcare services. It also enables patients to seek timely medical attention and preventive care, resulting in better care outcomes. 

For the healthcare facilities themselves, virtual care technology streamlines and eliminates many administrative costs associated with in-office patients. This results in fewer costs for all covered entities. 

Access to culturally competent care

Language and cultural barriers can also hinder effective healthcare delivery in underserved communities. Telehealth platforms can offer language interpretation services and provide access to healthcare professionals who understand the specific cultural needs of diverse populations. This ensures that individuals can communicate effectively with providers, receive accurate medical information and feel more comfortable seeking healthcare services.

Continuity of care

Another challenge underserved and marginalized communities often encounter is accessing continuous and consistent healthcare services. Telehealth allows individuals to establish ongoing relationships with healthcare providers. Through virtual care, patients can easily have follow-up appointments, monitor chronic conditions and receive necessary medication refills. This continuity of care ensures that individuals in underserved communities receive consistent healthcare management, reducing the disparities caused by fragmented or inconsistent care.

3. Increasing access to specialists

Telehealth also enhances access to much needed specialized medical care, further promoting health equity. Many underserved areas lack specialists, making it difficult for patients to access the care they need when they need it. Telehealth bridges this gap by enabling virtual consultations and allowing patients to connect with specialists in various fields, such as dermatology, endocrinology and cardiology. By expanding access to specialists, telehealth ensures that patients receive the care they need, when they need it.

In addition, virtual care strengthens the referral system by promoting seamless communication between primary care providers and specialists. By using telehealth platforms, primary care providers can connect with specialists to discuss patient cases and get recommendations for further evaluation or treatment. This collaborative approach streamlines the referral process and it ensures that underserved patients receive appropriate specialized care in a timely manner.

4. Enhancing healthcare access for vulnerable populations

Telehealth is particularly beneficial for more vulnerable populations, including individuals with disabilities, elderly adults and those with limited mobility. Telehealth services enable them to receive healthcare at home, removing the challenges associated with transportation and physical accessibility. By reducing barriers and increasing convenience, telehealth ensures that individuals with unique medical needs have equitable access to healthcare services.

5. Expanding mental health services and reducing stigma

Mental health disparities have long plagued healthcare systems worldwide. Many individuals, especially those in underrepresented populations, face barriers to accessing mental health services, ranging from societal stigmas to lack of resources. Telehealth is breaking down these barriers by expanding access to mental health consultations and psychiatry appointments. 

Moreover, telehealth allows individuals to access mental health services discreetly. This is particularly beneficial for those who live in small communities or lack local mental health resources but require more inclusive and affirming care. Telehealth is helping to address the mental health crisis and promoting health equity among diverse populations and making it more convenient to seek treatment.

Telehealth is a transformative force in the healthcare industry, enhancing healthcare equity by overcoming geographical barriers, increasing access to specialists and bridging the gaps in mental health care. This innovative approach is empowering individuals from diverse backgrounds to receive timely and quality healthcare. As technology continues to advance, further improvements in health equity are expected. And ultimately, this will lead to a more inclusive and accessible healthcare system for all.

Powering health equity through telehealth

As telehealth evolves and continues to increase health equity and access to care, it's up to digital health companies to equip themselves properly to provide quality virtual care and patient experiences - especially to those who need it most. 

OpenLoop, a white-label telehealth support company, is in the business of building better patient outcomes. With our private-label EHR platform, our clients are able to customize to meet their patient-flow and branding standards. And our provider staffing service gives our clients access to 30+ specialities. Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!

Our full suite of white-labeled Telehealth Support Services include: