Addressing the Telemedicine Access Gap

The practice of telemedicine, which allows healthcare providers to remotely diagnose and treat patients, is increasingly critical in a time of social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.  In order to participate, providers and patients need two tools: 1) access to broadband or mobile service, and 2) a device–ideally a computer, tablet or smartphone that allows a provider to visually examine a patient. While far too many homes that would benefit from telemedicine services do not have access to these tools, this Policy Map article shares how federal agencies are taking steps to expand access to telemedicine for those who need it most. For example, they have recently lifted some restrictions so that telemedicine can be provided using software such as Skype and FaceTime which are easily accessible and available on smartphones. Additionally, the recently passed Relief Act provides $180 million for telehealth services specifically for rural areas and Federally Qualified Health Care Centers and Rural Health Clinics can now provide telehealth services.