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Action Plan 7: Improve Access to Health Care for All

Jennifer Bretsch, MS; Jennifer Faerberg, MHSA; Sarah Hampton; and Rosha Champion McCoy, MD, describe how the AAMC is working on three priority areas to address issues of health care access and equity.

Health care access is a complex and chronic challenge in the United States.

This action plan seeks to improve access to care for people in medically underserved and otherwise marginalized communities by capitalizing on the strengths of the academic medicine community: its integrated mission areas, commitment to evidence-based care, and community collaborations. We seek to identify and advance innovative, effective, and evidence-based strategies that enhance health care access and promote health care equity while supporting high-value care.

Where we are now

  • Building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
    Through a continuing cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are implementing the Health Professions Education Curricular Innovations grant program to support developing competency-based, interprofessional strategies to mitigate health misinformation and integrating these strategies into new or existing curricula to enhance health professions capacity to address health misinformation. Through this grant program, five teaching hospitals were awarded funding and a final summary of the lessons learned is being developed.

    We’ve also continued our Building Trust and Confidence Through Partnerships grant program for the second year, in partnership with the AAMC Center for Health Justice, which awarded funding to five medical schools and teaching hospitals to promote stronger cross-sector collaboration with and among public health departments, social services agencies, and community-based organizations to support both near- and long-term responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently establishing a partnership with a patient- and family-centered organization to expand the impact of this grant program as we shift focus to pediatric populations. Media tours are another important thread of this work; our most recent one focused on the importance of staying up to date on all vaccines, especially for COVID-19 and the flu, in preparation for flu season and colder weather.

    As Year 2 of the cooperative agreement comes to an end, we look forward to sharing the successes of both grant programs. The CDC has informed us that funding will continue, so we are also planning for the work ahead in Year 3, with a special focus on building confidence in the pediatric COVID-19 vaccines and routine pediatric immunizations.
  • Leveraging telehealth to improve health care equity.
    We continue to lead efforts and partner with members to identify and address barriers associated with telehealth to improve digital equity and inclusion. Through the Telehealth Equity Catalyst (TEC) Program, we’ve partnered with the 2022 TEC Award and TEC Pilot Grant recipients to spread their solutions to improve digital equity, particularly for underserved and under-resourced communities. As of September 2022, we’ve completed the AAMC Learning Series on Advancing Health Equity Through Telehealth, which can now be viewed on demand.
  • Broadening access to mental and behavioral health care.
    We have launched an advocacy agenda on integrated behavioral health (IBH) and completed extensive member and partner outreach. As part of this agenda, the AAMC held a virtual congressional briefing in October. “Confronting the Mental Health Crisis: The Value of a Team-Based Approach” was sponsored by the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus and focused on the capacity of IBH models to extend the behavioral health workforce, expand access to care, and destigmatize behavioral health care. We established a mental and behavioral health advisory committee comprised of mental health care leaders from member institutions and key external partners to advise us on our work. In partnership with the Center for Health Justice, we have conducted a national poll of birthing persons and collected data on their experiences with maternal mental health during their pregnancies.

What happens next

  • Building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.
    Beginning in October 2022, we will direct our efforts to increase vaccine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, with a focus on the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and routine pediatric immunizations. With this new focus, we will administer new grants for two existing programs: the Building Trust and Confidence Through Partnerships grant program (in collaboration with the Center for Health Justice) and the Health Professions Education Curricular Innovations grant program to build on the lessons learned. Digital literacy remains an important thread of this work, as evidenced by our efforts to develop digital literacy and equity strategies to support patients in navigating access and care related to COVID-19. We will continue with media outreach focusing on pediatric vaccine guidance and markets with lower COVID-19 and routine vaccination rates.
  • Leveraging telehealth to improve health care equity.
    This fall, we will begin distilling strategies and approaches to improving telehealth equity into a resource for teaching hospitals. This resource will bring together key insights from the 2021 and 2022 TEC Award and Pilot Grant recipients, the 2022 TEC Workshop series, and the AAMC Learning Series. With the creation of a telehealth equity resource hub on the website, we aim to include additional outputs that focus on telehealth equity in medical education and training (in particular, the Access and Equity AAMC Telehealth Competencies), care delivery models, and community partnerships.
  • Broadening access to mental and behavioral health care.
    Beginning in January 2023, we will offer an educational webinar series focused on the implementation of IBH models in teaching hospitals , and in spring 2023, we will launch an awards program focused on multidisciplinary team training for practicing in IBH models. We will expand our study of the important role of telehealth in providing access to mental and behavioral health care and will seek partners to improve seamless transitions of care that leverage technologies to augment team-based coordination of care. Additionally, we are exploring collaborative opportunities between pediatricians, OB-GYNs, and primary care providers to support maternal mental health.

Ways to get involved

  • Visit VaccineVoices and learn about ways you and your institution can promote vaccine confidence, acceptance, and access. Email vaccineconfidence@aamc.org with any feedback or ideas.
  • Look for our announcements this fall to register for our educational webinars on implementing IBH models in teaching hospitals.
  • Email telehealth@aamc.org if you want to learn more or join a virtual network of individuals committed to telehealth equity.