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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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we’ve re-designed and enhanced our website VaccineVoices.org, and are implementing a grant program focused on building trust and confidence through partnerships. Through this grant program, five (5) academic medical centers were awarded funding 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. In October 2021, we convened a medical education symposium on confronting health misinformation, which helped us plan for future work in this area. We are also addressing the digital divide to ensure equitable access to care for COVID-19 and future pandemics. Through eConsults to specialists and related peer-mentored care, we aim to increase support for primary care providers at the front lines of managing care for patients in their communities.
  • 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. We recently completed the first Telehealth Equity Catalyst (TEC) workshop series that brought 40+ institutions together to share expertise in addressing digital equity through clinical care, medical education, and community engagement. Through the TEC Program, we recently identified the 2022 TEC Award and TEC Pilot Grant recipients and will partner with these institutions to spread their solutions to improve digital equity, particularly for underserved and under-resourced communities. In May 2022, we launched the AAMC Learning Series on Advancing Health Equity Through Telehealth which continues through August 2022.
  • Broadening access to mental and behavioral health care. We have launched an advocacy agenda on integrated behavioral health and completed extensive member and partner outreach. 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 Center for Health Justice, we have conducted a national poll of birthing persons and collected data on their experience with maternal mental health during their pregnancy.

What happens next

  • Vaccine Confidence: We are launching medical education grants 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 confront misinformation. We will continue with media outreach focusing on new vaccine guidance and markets with low vaccination and high COVID-19 infection rates.
  • Telehealth Equity: This fall, we will begin distilling strategies and approaches to improving telehealth equity into a resource for academic medical centers. 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.
  • Mental and behavioral health care access: We will continue to use the input of our mental and behavioral health advisory committee to develop an educational webinar series on integrated behavioral health. We will expand our study of the important role of telehealth in providing access to mental and behavioral health care, and seek partners to improve seamless transitions of care that leverage technologies to augment team-based coordination of care. We will leverage our advocacy agenda in outreach to policymakers and other key stakeholders.

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 in spring 2022 about ways to get involved in the AAMC’s Integrated Behavioral Health Network.
  • Email telehealth@aamc.org if you want to learn more or join a virtual network of individuals committed to telehealth equity.