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GUEST BLOG: Hannah Talks Telehealth in Arkansas

Hi everyone, Hannah here! I missed talking to you guys and I am so happy to be back this month!

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Today, I want to talk to you all about telehealth in Arkansas. As we all know, Covid-19 has put a huge strain on the healthcare industry and impacted quality healthcare in the United States. Covid-19 has, sadly, restricted many patient’s access to healthcare. But, thankfully, telehealth has given a sense of peace and comfort back to these patients.

Telehealth, by definition, is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patient’s health status (Telehealth Policy Guidance Document Glossary of Terms.) Patients can now access healthcare in the privacy of their own home and no matter where they are. This is such an extraordinary thing that everyone should be able to take advantage of. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has exposed new inequalities in our healthcare system. These inequalities have always been present, but the pandemic has really shed a new light on them. We need to make it our mission to fight for equality in our healthcare system. The American Heart Association (AHA) sees the potential impact that telehealth can have on the access to quality healthcare for all people and supports policies that ensure it.

The AHA has released statements supporting telehealth, rural health and expanding access to adequate care. In early 2020, the AHA released its 2020 Statement of Principles for Adequate, Accessible, and Affordable Health Care. It stated that every person should receive high-quality, affordable, and patient-centered healthcare no matter their situation. Regardless of a patient’s race, gender, or social standing, they deserve quality healthcare. Covid-19 has taken a lot away from many people, but health care is something that everyone should be able to always rely on.

Telehealth use for primary care among Medicare beneficiaries increased dramatically during the beginning of the pandemic, which is great! Half of Medicare visits were by telehealth in April 2020. But this growth was drastically smaller in rural areas than in urban areas. This is due to more barriers in between patients and telehealth in these more rural towns. This is a significant downfall to telehealth and telemedicine in general. Telehealth should be able to close the gap between undeserved communities and adequate healthcare. Advances have been made in telehealth that are creating new opportunities for addressing the barriers in finding quality healthcare for ALL patients. This is super exciting news!! Hopefully, soon, all patients will have access to affordable and adequate healthcare through telehealth.

To make telehealth equally accessible to all people, we must address the barriers that are holding back this potential. Some of the barriers to the benefits of telehealth are financial barriers, technical barriers, social/cultural barriers, and system barriers. The AHA has stated before that they completely believe that telehealth has the potential to expand access to quality care for all. Telehealth also potentially allows health care to be delivered to patients in communities where in-person subspecialty services are not available, providing support and training for complex medical conditions to local providers, increasing accessibility for families to specialists, and minimizing time away from work and home!  

The Arkansas Legislature is currently considering legislation to expand coverage for telemedicine services.  CLICK HERE to contact your legislators and ask that they support HB1063 for better telehealth and telemedicine in Arkansas.  

Breaking these barriers from patients to accessible healthcare is such an important goal right now! Covid-19 has impacted so many people and telehealth truly does have the potential to give comfort back to everyone! If we work diligently in our communities, we can fight back against everything that is keeping patients in rural or undeserved communities from the healthcare that they deserve. We have so much power with the things we do, say, and post online. So, to push for easier access to adequate healthcare for all, use your voice and proudly advocate for breaking down the barriers in telehealth!

That is all for me this month, everyone! As always, thank you so much for reading and I am, again, so happy to be back this month! I will be back again next month with something new and I can’t wait!

So much love,

Hannah Walker

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