Telehealth is the use of technology to better harness providers’ time and expertise and connect patients to the care they need more quickly and conveniently. For over a decade, CHCF has worked to expand the use of telehealth in the California safety net. This work takes on new urgency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For over a decade, CHCF has worked to expand the use of telehealth in the California safety net to improve access to specialty and behavioral health care by Californians with low incomes, increase the efficiency and capacity of the health care workforce, and improve quality and health outcomes.
In 2020 there has been an enormous expansion of telehealth in the safety net, as health care practices have had to rapidly adopt a variety of telehealth capabilities to continue providing care while also keeping workers and patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this progress, much more must be done to ensure that the benefits of telehealth reach populations with low incomes throughout California and to ensure lasting improvements in access to care, both during and beyond the pandemic.
In collaboration with a variety of partners, CHCF identifies telehealth solutions that are scalable in the California safety net and works to reduce barriers to the wider adoption of telehealth. CHCF does this by:
- Funding telehealth demonstration projects in close collaboration with Medi-Cal managed care plans, safety-net hospitals and clinics, and other health care providers that serve a large number of Medi-Cal patients.
- Investing in private telehealth companies operating in California’s safety net (through the CHCF Health Innovation Fund).
- Supporting telehealth research, education, and policy advocacy through the Center for Connected Health Policy and other groups.
Ending Phone Visits Would Be a Setback for Patients with Low Incomes
The Importance of Health Care Phone Visits
The Doctor Will Call Me Maybe
Telehealth Use Among Safety-Net Organizations in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This JAMA Research Letter finds that visits at FQHCs participating in CHCF’s Connected Care Accelerator declined only modestly for primary care and remained stable for behavioral health during the first six months of the pandemic, with telehealth (particularly by telephone) replacing in-person visits. The authors conclude that “eliminating coverage for telephone visits could disproportionately affect underserved populations and threaten the ability of FQHCs to meet patient needs.”