What is Telehealth Readiness…and how to make it happen

Amy Sheon provides digital health equity data c television show
Steps health systems can take to increase telehealth equity


A number of health systems that I work with (and many that I don’t!) have grown alarmed by disparities in telehealth use.   Who connects by video and who by audio?  Who tries video but the effort fails, leading to desperate phone calls?  Who still comes into the office, risking COVID transmission?  Who goes the the Emergency Department because they’ve avoided office visits?  And who is skipping care altogether?

I counsel systems on what groups to compare.  Age, race, ethnicity, of course, are the first things that come to mind.  But are they the most important?  Why those?  Public Health Innovators helps systems think about WHY they want to measure.

Presumably, the goal is to identify actionable findings.

Since you can’t change someone’s age, race, or ethnicity, there are usually underlying reasons that those factors have come to mind.  Instead, I encourage them to think about factors associated with patient barriers to telehealth use.  Age, yes, but how to look at it?  In 5-year groupings?  Over or under 65?  I won’t give away all of my secret sauce here, but I can usually help a health system identify age groupings that matter.

Even more important is address.  All systems know where most of their patients live.  If you know their address, there is a lot you can know about them without having to survey them or search their record.  Again, some secret sauce here…

But if you know me at all, you know that I’ll encourage you to look at factors associated with telehealth readiness.  Do they have a device that can be used for telehealth?  A robust connection?  Are both available when needed, or only episodically?  And most importantly…but difficult for health systems to deal with, is their digital skills.  Not just any digital skills, and not all of them, either.  Specific skills that they need to use YOUR telehealth program.

I’ve just described two steps in Public Health Innovator’s Model for Achieving Digital Health Equity.  See a sample set of Telehealth Screening Questions that I help systems customize for their workflow, patients, and telehealth program.

And see the full Digital Inclusion for Telehealth Equity Model, above.

Contact Public Health Innovators to learn how you can implement the model to improve telehealth equity in your institution.  See the testimonials from some clients I’ve been working with.

Or schedule a complimentary 30 minute consultation.