Kiosks Can Bring Telehealth To Populations That Need It Most
Telehealth usage has skyrocketed across the country. In the past year of the pandemic, the weekly number of behavioral health visits increased 25 percent on average compared with before COVID-19. This is due to expanded use of audio and video technology. But a study of insured patients published in Health Affairs found that in poorer communities, telehealth usage was significantly lower.
“Prior to the pandemic, we built our patient portal to utilize telehealth services. But it reaches only part of our patient population,” says Steve Johnson, behavioral health administrator at Broadlawns Medical Center.
“When you’re dealing with populations in poverty, they may not have a video-capable phone. They may not have access to the kind of equipment or internet that you can just log on to a patient portal for telehealth.” A safety net hospital serving Polk County, Iowa, Broadlawns is required to provide needed medical care regardless of patients’ insurance status.
To ensure patients have access to health services, Broadlawns has launched a telehealth kiosk pilot program in a local community center.
At the outset of the program, Broadlawns will limit the telehealth kiosk to existing behavioral health services patients but hopes to expand to other clinical areas and new behavioral health patients as well. The program will offer counseling and medication management.
“We think it will be a good option for people who may have difficulties with transportation, childcare, broadband access, or don’t want to go into a large hospital setting,” he says.
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