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AAMC Hosts Congressional Briefings on Telehealth and Health Equity

July 23, 2021

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CONTACTS
Jason Kleinman, Senior Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst

The AAMC hosted two virtual congressional briefings on the future of telehealth and data for health equity during the week of July 19.

The July 20 briefing, “The Future of Telehealth: How Teaching Hospitals Continue to Expand Access to Care,” highlighted how telehealth has enabled access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic and its critical role in the future of health care. Speakers also addressed the importance of continuing many of the current telehealth flexibilities beyond the end of the public health emergency.

AAMC Chief Health Care Officer Janis Orlowski, MD, MACP, presented data showing how quickly major teaching hospitals were able to adapt to providing telehealth services at the onset of the pandemic, as well as an overview of the AAMC’s Telehealth Competencies Across the Learning Continuum.

Karen Rheuban, MD, professor of pediatrics, senior associate dean for continuing medical education and external affairs, and medical director, office of telemedicine, at UVA Health noted how the current telehealth waivers have enabled UVA Health to increase their telehealth services, especially in primary care. She also gave an overview of how the health system has invested significant resources to provide virtual care and why payment parity for telehealth visits is important for program sustainability.

During his presentation, Darren Malinoski, MD, FACS, professor of surgery and chief clinical transformation officer at the Oregon Health & Science University, highlighted how telehealth in the home is essential to providing patient-centered, value-based care; how rural patients have benefitted from expanded access to specialty care delivered via digital means; and how digital equity is the next social determinant of health. He emphasized that considerable resources are necessary to prevent the worsening of disparities in access to care.

Additionally, AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD, thanked Congress and the administration for their efforts to expand access to telehealth but noted more work is needed. Specifically, she urged policymakers to allow patients to access telehealth services in any location and to allow payment for audio-only services. Finally, she noted the need to improve access to broadband technology, allow patients to access telehealth across state lines as appropriate, and reimburse providers the same for telehealth as in-person visits.

On July 21, the AAMC and its newly established AAMC Center for Health Justice hosted a briefing, “Data for Health Equity: the Foundation for Creating Healthier Communities.” The briefing highlighted how all sectors in the health ecosystem – including housing, public health, medicine, transportation – have similar data needs related to demographics, individual-level social needs, and community-level social determinants, among others.

Opening remarks were delivered by Fisher and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who serves as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). Rep. Chu discussed the need to disaggregate race and ethnicity data by subgroups to address health inequities and the need to utilize this data to address social determinants of health.

Philip Alberti, PhD, founding director of the AAMC Center for Health Justice, highlighted the center’s three guiding ideas: working with communities, fostering multisector partnerships, and impacting public policy. He also discussed the recently released, “Principles of Trustworthiness,” which is aimed to guide health care, public health, and other organizations as they work to demonstrate they are worthy of trust in their communities.

Daniel Dawes, JD, executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, talked about how race/ethnicity data availability varies across different states, and the impact this missing data has on health inequities for underrepresented minority populations.

Additionally, Michele Perez, assistant deputy secretary for field policy and management at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, highlighted how housing is an important social determinant of health, and the need to centralize race/ethnicity data to better assist those who need affordable housing.

In her presentation, Rhonda Randall, DO, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, noted her organization’s use of internal data to look at factors such as housing and education to mitigate health risks of their subscribers.

Finally, Gail Christopher, DN, chair of the National Commission to Transform Public Health Systems at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, discussed how the commission is reimagining the way data are collected, shared, and used, as well as identifying ways public-private investments can help modernize our public health data infrastructure to improve health equity.

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