- Beth Zeidler Schreiter, PsyD, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, Access Community Health Centers Madison, WI
- Sashi Gregory, MPH, Research and Communications Manager, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association Madison, WI
- Molly Jones, MSW, Health Information and Quality Program Manager, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association, Madison, WI
There has been an incredible spike in virtual healthcare catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic necessitated an immediate roll-out for virtual service delivery to promote safety and access to crucial healthcare services. This presentation focuses on data collection from both the patient and provider perspective regarding telehealth as a provision of care in Wisconsin Community Health Centers. The initial survey focused on Health Center provider perceptions on: 1) Provider comfort with and use of virtual visit modalities and technology 2) Provider perception of patient comfort with virtual visits and barriers to utilization of virtual visit modalities and technology Survey Design: online survey tool to gather provider input on telehealth services. Survey Administration: Health Center CEOs emailed a link to the online survey tool to their providers who were providing telehealth services. Key findings: -The option to provide telehealth visits facilitated access to care for patients. -Providers recognized that limited or no broadband access, access to technology and patient technology knowledge, affected patient engagement through audio + video platforms. -While providers generally preferred to utilize audio + video virtual visit platforms, having the option to utilize audio only or audio + video was an important factor in meeting patient’s needs and preferences. -Providers felt comfortable using the virtual visit platforms provided by their Health Centers and would recommend the use of virtual visits to their colleagues. -Providers recognized that patients needed additional support in order to effectively participate in virtual visits. Through the information collected from this survey, along with Health Center operational data the goal is to establish baseline data on the perception and utilization of telehealth in Wisconsin Health Centers. In addition, this information will assist with gaining insight on the Health Center experience with a new technology for patients that will help inform policy decisions at the state and federal level and on operational enhancements to improve telehealth services for both providers and patients. Many states have had to provide temporary guidance related to telehealth rules and reimbursement methodology specific to Medicaid. In the state of Wisconsin, there is active collaboration with Wisconsin Department of Health Services to develop permanent telehealth policy that ensures equitable access to telehealth services. Telehealth services can enhance access to care, but how these services are defined and reimbursed will be crucial to equitable access and not inadvertently widen disparities. In addition, supporting mental health parity is also a crucial component to support whole person health. The widespread adaptation of virtual health care services will change the face of healthcare in the future and warrants intentional and collaborative approaches to ensure quality and equity.
- Identify benefits of leveraging telehealth services to promote enhanced access to care for patients of community health centers.
- Identify key barriers to leveraging telehealth services as identified by patients and providers and strategies to reduce these barriers.
- Understand advocacy efforts taken in the state of Wisconsin to support telehealth parity and to ensure equitable access to telehealth services.