Tech access tied to health disparities, EmblemHealth finds

As the COVID-19 crisis accelerates the use of telehealth to maintain access to care, a new study from EmblemHealth gives credence to concerns about how disparities in the availability of tech are affecting the most vulnerable and hardest-hit communities.

The study found racial disparities in access to technology, EmblemHealth told Crain’s. The lack of ownership of electronic devices and internet services is standing in the way of accessing telehealth services.

A survey of 1,000 individuals across the city revealed that low-income and Black New Yorkers are more likely than the general population to have access to only one electronic device at home, limiting their ability to access telehealth services when other household members are using that technology, EmblemHealth said. Nearly 80% of the general population reported having access to two or more devices at home, compared to 69% and 67%, respectively, of low-income and Black households.

Additionally, while 82% of the general population reported having access to regular and adequate internet at home during the pandemic, about a quarter of low-income households and a third of Black households reported having inadequate internet access, EmblemHealth said.

“While telehealth offers substantial benefits to patients and providers—as many have seen throughout the pandemic—it is less accessible to lower-income communities that lack widespread broadband access and other technological capabilities often taken for granted in more affluent areas,” said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of EmblemHealth, in a statement on the study.

She added that it is critical to include Wi-Fi access as part of the healthcare industry’s work to address disparities.

She recently noted the benefits of virtual care, including cost savings and higher quality, alongside other panelists during a Crain’s New York Business custom webcast.

EmblemHealth’s survey was conducted by Minneapolis-based ANA Research.

Tech access tied to health disparities, EmblemHealth finds” originally appeared in Crain’s New York Business.

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