New York – The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of telehealth and shined a spotlight on the need for the health care community to focus on access to convenient devices to ensure the digital revolution does not leave gaps in care. As part of its effort to understand digital access, EmblemHealth, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health insurers, today announced the results of a study which found racial disparities in access to technology and barriers to receiving care. The study found ownership of electronic devices, access to internet services and overall lack of technology are impinging on access to telehealth.
"COVID-19 has triggered a transformation in the way health care practitioners treat their patients," said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of EmblemHealth. "While telehealth offers substantial benefits to patients and providers—as many have seen throughout the pandemic—it is less accessible to lower-income communities that lack widespread broadband access and other technological capabilities often taken for granted in more affluent areas."
As EmblemHealth expanded its digital care solutions in response to COVID-19, the non-profit health insurer recognized the need to gather data on the real-life experience of its beneficiaries. The survey, conducted by ANA Research, polled 1,000 New Yorkers across all five boroughs on barriers to care, access to technology and digital literacy. As the use of telehealth for medical check-ups, urgent care, teletherapy and other needs has increased across the health care industry during COVID-19, EmblemHealth’s survey revealed that many of the communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 also lack the level of technology access that is available to other communities.
The survey found that both low-income and Black/African American New Yorkers are more likely than the general population to have access to only one technology device at home, limiting their ability to access telehealth services when other household members are using that technology. Seventy-eight percent of the general population has access to two or more technology devices at home, compared to only 69% of low-income households and 67% of Black/African American households. While the majority of the general population (82 percent) reported having access to regular and adequate internet at home during COVID-19, almost a quarter of low-income households and nearly a third of Black/African American New Yorkers reported having inadequate internet access.
"COVID-19 has demonstrated that the health care community needs to deepen its focus on disparities. As part of those efforts, we need to include wifi access," said Ignagni. EmblemHealth serves over 3 million members in the New York area. Through its Neighborhood Care centers, EmblemHealth provides free wi-fi and digital literacy workshops to all community members. As New York continues to reopen, EmblemHealth will continue to work with local officials to expand this access.
Last month, EmblemHealth’s partner, AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY), one of the largest primary and specialty care practices in the New York area, announced partnerships with the City of New York and the State of New York to increase access and availability for COVID-19 testing across communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
Visit emblemhealth.com for more information on EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care and other programs that provide access to resources in underserved communities.
EmblemHealth is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health insurers, with 3.1 million members and an 80-year legacy of serving New York’s communities. The company offers a full range of commercial and government-sponsored health plans to employers, individuals and families, as well as convenient community resources. As a market leader in value-based care, EmblemHealth partners with top doctors and hospitals to deliver quality, affordable care. For more information, visit emblemhealth.com.