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Safety-net providers face obstacles to telehealth adoption

March 13, 2019 / Deirdre Fulton

Despite its clear potential to improve access to high-quality care in underserved communities, telehealth is underutilized by safety-net providers due to a range of barriers, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation. The analysis, based on interviews with Medicaid officials from seven states and representatives from 19 Federally Qualified Health Centers in those states, points to insufficient reimbursement as a leading culprit for this lag, in addition to other logistical, policy and operational barriers. Telehealth can help rural, low-income and vulnerable populations better access health care -- and analyses have shown use of this technology, particularly live video telehealth, is growing among FQHCs. In some cases, telehealth is the only way to bring specialists into remote places. But uptake, maintenance and expansion of telehealth services have been spotty at best. The RAND report, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, seeks to find out why.