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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 and routine pediatric immunizations.
    Through a continuing cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we continued to advance strategies to build confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and routine pediatric immunizations.

    We continued the Building Trust and Confidence Through Partnerships Grant Program, in collaboration with the AAMC Center for Health Justice, to support five medical schools and teaching hospitals to promote stronger cross-sector collaboration to support both near- and long-term responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on pediatric populations. We partnered with the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), which leads a national network to bring comprehensive health care to children in under-resourced communities, and supported CHF program partners at Parkland Health and Hospital System, University of Miami Health System, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital to increase vaccine access for pediatric populations. As an effort to highlight both collaborations, we created a series of videos that feature the work in several communities across the country. we created a series of videos that feature the work in several communities across the country.

    As health misinformation continues to significantly impact confidence in vaccines, we moved forward with the Health Professions Education Curricular Innovations grant program that focuses on developing competency-based, interprofessional strategies to mitigate health misinformation and integrating these strategies into new or existing curricula. Representatives and learners from four AAMC-member medical schools convened for the “Kickstarting Strategies for Addressing Health Misinformation Subgrantee Workshop” in September 2023. This interactive session highlighted resources for health professions educators to use when developing their own curriculum.
  • Leveraging telehealth to improve health care equity.
    Telehealth became a central tool throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency to facilitate continuous care, maintain access to care for patients, and enhance positive health outcomes. However, significant barriers to telehealth adoption and implementation exist and require approaches predicated on equity.

    We continue to lead efforts and partner with members to identify and address digital equity and inclusion barriers. The AAMC Telehealth Equity Catalyst (TEC) Award Program is in its third cycle and funds member institutions across the country to develop and assess solutions to advance digital equity for underserved and under-resourced communities

    The AAMC learning series on Advancing Health Equity Through Telehealth has also relaunched for 2023 and aims to highlight and disseminate best practices in academic medicine that promote and advance health care equity through telehealth. The webinar series recently featured the TEC Awards Symposium, showcasing the impactful work conducted at 10 TEC-funded member institutions addressing health care equity through telehealth resources. We also highlighted the development of a health equity model powered by telehealth at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The 2022 learning series is available on demand and enrollment is now open for the 2023 learning series.

    In summer of 2023, we published Digital Health Equity Current Practices and Approaches of Academic Medical Centers, which looks at the current promising practices and approaches to achieving digital equity at 11 academic medical centers. While many academic medical centers are currently in the initial stages of developing digital health equity strategies, this document helps disseminate information on emerging trends and highlights key themes across institutions.
  • Broadening access to mental and behavioral health care.
    In advancing wider access to mental and behavioral health care (MH/BH), the AAMC supports the implementation of integrated behavioral health (IBH) models in academic health systems; promotes training and collaborative problem-solving to address maternal mental health care gaps and disparities (especially for communities who have been historically marginalized and under-resourced); and strongly encourages the utilization of technology to augment MH/BH care delivery and expand its accessibility.

    At the beginning of 2023, we launched Promoting Access to Behavioral Health Care, an AAMC webpage that serves as a hub of information and resources. It includes AAMC programs and activities relating to the advancement of mental health care access, as well as key literature on IBH, maternal mental health, and opportunities to utilize technology to improve mental health care access.

    From March to June 2023, we hosted a four-part webinar learning series focused on the implementation of IBH models at academic medical centers. All recordings and accompanying resources are available upon registration.

    In May 2023, we recognized four AAMC-member health systems and teaching hospitals with the AAMC MH/BH Training Awards for their innovations in multidisciplinary team training focused on the development of collaborative skills central to IBH care. We will continue to engage with these programs to disseminate best practices. Representatives from each institution will present successes, challenges, lessons learned, and opportunities for growth at Learn Serve Lead 2023: The AAMC Annual Meeting.

    In September 2023, we are launching Improving Maternal Mental Health Outcomes: Varied Approaches to Closing the Gap of Care, a webinar learning series focusing on innovative ways academic medical centers and nonprofit organizations are addressing maternal mental health disparities and access challenges. The goals of the series are to amplify promising practices, to convene health care providers and experts to share knowledge, and to provide key takeaways for use across academic health systems.

    We are currently studying the key role of telehealth and technology in ensuring access to mental and behavioral health care. We will continue pursuing collaborative partnerships that leverage technologies to maximize team-based coordination and transitions of care.

What happens next

  • Building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and routine pediatric immunizations.
    We will continue to direct our efforts to increase vaccine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, with a focus on the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and routine pediatric immunizations and develop videos to highlight the important work of the Health Professions Education Curricular Innovations grant program.
  • Leveraging telehealth to improve health care equity.
    To address the technical barriers that may exist with the implementation and adoption of telehealth, the AAMC, in partnership with our member organizations, will develop recommendations for device functionality, usability, and infrastructure to optimize telehealth and enhance high-quality, safe, and patient-centered care. The goal of these recommendations is to promote access to telehealth for all individuals, including historically marginalized populations and those with disabilities and low literacy. 
  • Broadening access to mental and behavioral health care.
    We are exploring other avenues to expand our work in MH/BH, particularly focusing on promoting collaborations between institutions on key MH/BH issues. Our work will continue to be informed by data and a diverse array of clinical practice and research perspectives.

    We are also exploring ways to expand our work in maternal mental health. We will continue listening to and learning from maternal mental health experts and patient advocates at academic medical centers and building relationships with national partner organizations to increase access to maternal mental health care nationwide.

Ways to get involved