Sep 8, 2020 - Health

Telehealth needs work to address racial disparities

Telemedicine is subject to the same racial disparities as in-person care, according to a report published in the Journal of Informatics in Health and Biomedicine.

Why it matters: Health care providers and the Trump administration have heralded telemedicine as the great equalizer for Americans, but big gaps in access still persist.

Where it stands: The racial disparity in telemedicine shrank during the pandemic, but it's still sizable, according to the study, which analyzed more than 140,000 telemedicine records between March and April, the of the peak pandemic in New York City.

  • 13% of Black New Yorkers used telemedicine in that period, according to the study — up from just 8% a year earlier.
  • But nearly half the white population in NYC already used telehealth before the pandemic. The percentage decreased slightly in 2020.

Between the lines: The pre-existing digital divide will limit telehealth's ability to overcome the racial disparities baked into the health care system overall, the study says.

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