Cecilia Oregón is the Executive Director of Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy. Kaiser Permanente is a Hall of Fame company.
High-speed internet was once a luxury, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a necessity. With shifts to a remote-based world, accessing resources, education, work materials and healthcare from home is crucial — and not always possible.
Cecilia Oregón, Executive Director of Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy, urges lawmakers to create and enforce policies that bridge the digital equity gap and help communities get connected.
“We need public policies that aim for digital equity,” said Oregón. “Everyone should have the access, tools and knowledge they need to get online. We also need policies that ensure everyone who wants and needs it can access virtual health care.”
During the height of the pandemic, many efforts were made to ensure people could access what they need from the safety of their home. Kaiser Permanente, for example, delivered over 28 million telehealth visits to its patients in 2021. And, according to McKinsey & Company, the use of telehealth in 2021 was 38 times higher than before the pandemic.
Policies were a crucial part of ensuring an increased level of access to remote care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services removed geographic restrictions to allow for more virtual health appointments and increase health insurance coverage.
Many of these policies have been renewed by Congress, but most expire after 2024. Many rural and low-income households still face difficulties with internet access, as well.
“To ensure continued access to telehealth, Congress should make key pandemic-era telehealth policies permanent. They should support access to phone-based care, while working to expand digital access,” urged Kaiser Permanente’s Oregón.
Increasing the affordability of internet access, providing necessary education needed to navigate a digital world and providing virtual care are all crucial, she says.
“If we want better health outcomes for all, we need to work to create digital equity and make expanded telehealth policies permanent to give more Americans access to much needed care.”
Read more at about.kaiserpermanente.org.