Examining the telehealth digital divide for patients with limited English proficiency
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an increase in telehealth utilization. Since that growth, researchers have made calls to ensure that telehealth’s subsequent growth does not exacerbate disparities in care.
Evidence of the “digital divide,” or differences in the technology or skills needed to access telehealth care, is widely documented. Race, age, geography, health coverage, and more can all impact how and if one adopts and uses telehealth services. English language proficiency is one factor closely connected to telemedicine use, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Jorge Rodriguez, an instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues recently published research in the March 2021 edition of Health Affairs on telehealth use among patients with limited English proficiency using data from 2015-2018. They found that patients with limited English proficiency had lower rates of telehealth use when compared to proficient English speakers and argue that policy makers must focus on limited English proficiency as an important factor to promote telehealth equity and mitigate the digital divide.
On this episode of A Health Podyssey, Alan Weil interviews Jorge Rodriguez on telehealth utilization for patients with limited English proficiency, the digital divide, and how technology equity feeds into health equity initiatives.