Written by: Chris Rubeo

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the way California delivers health care. Telehealth has become crucial to improving access to care as well as health equity – fair, just, and inclusive opportunities for people to be healthy – during this ongoing pandemic and beyond. This literature review was conducted by CCI to inform program design for the Connected Care Accelerator.

Virtual Care and Health Equity

The review describes trends in telehealth use in California with special attention to which patients had been left behind in the transition to virtual care (Nouri, 2020) and whether virtual care was being delivered by phone or video (Uscher-Pines, 2021). We sought to understand how people were experiencing virtual care from the perspective of patients (CPEHN, 2020; CHCF, 2020) and providers (Chang, 2021). We also included studies about a broad range of factors that impact telehealth use including broadband and device access (Hayes, 2021), California’s digital divide (Le, 2021), and language barriers (Rodriguez, 2021).

A Snapshot of Emerging Evidence

We conducted our review between June and September 2021. We focused our search narrowly on studies, reports, and news articles looking at telehealth and health equity in safety net clinics. At the time of our search, telehealth was still a relatively novel approach to care in the health care safety net, and research was only beginning to emerge describing its impacts on health equity. Consequently, the findings in this review are only a snapshot of early studies and may be outdated.

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