Maternal telehealth expands, but not all have access

With the onset of the pandemic, many states have modified their policies to expand maternal telehealth services. Through a literature review and in-depth interviews with maternal health stakeholders and providers, Urban Institute researchers capture early lessons from the maternal telehealth expansion. For many women and families—particularly those with transportation and child care barriers to attending in-person visits—have benefited from telehealth options. However, authors also find that there are considerable access and equity concerns. Limited access to broadband and digital devices has been a barrier for many rural communities as well as poor urban communities. These challenges contribute to inequitable telehealth access for low-income communities and communities of color. Additionally, language barriers reduce access for women and families whose primary language is not English. Even when interpreter services were available for telehealth visits, health care providers described the process as cumbersome. Authors propose that federal and state governments should at least consider making temporary telehealth policies more permanent. Other possible policy changes include payment parity policies so that telehealth visits are consistently reimbursed at rates matching in-person visits, increased investments in broadband infrastructure, and a broadening of allowable telehealth services by state Medicaid programs. #racialequity #rural #childcare

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