The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) brings together health care providers, technology innovators, policymakers, and researchers to collaboratively drive the adoption of telehealth, ensuring that it aligns with the needs of patients and providers. The ATA has played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s telehealth policies and best practices through its dedication to research, advocacy, education, and networking. As health care continues to evolve, the ATA remains at the forefront of harnessing the potential of telehealth, making quality care more accessible, convenient, and equitable for all. In honor of ATA’s 3rd Annual Telehealth Awareness Week (September 17-23, 2023), we would like to reflect on the impact that Third Horizon Strategies (THS) is helping ATA make in the realm of virtual care.
Health disparities in the United States remain a sobering reflection of systemic inequalities within American health care. While telehealth holds great promise in expanding health care access and convenience, bold action must be taken to ensure that telehealth access – or lack thereof – reduces disparities rather than exacerbates them. One of the key issues lies in the digital divide, as underserved populations often lack the necessary technology, reliable internet connectivity, or digital literacy skills required to access virtual health care services. This divide prevents marginalized communities from accessing the benefits of quality services that can now be provided via telehealth. Since 2021, the ATA has engaged THS to facilitate an advisory group of health care executives (called the CEO’s Advisory Group on Using Telehealth to Eliminate Healthcare Disparities and Inequities) to address health disparities and inequities through the use of telehealth. The group has developed several tools to advance that goal, including:
- A series of issue briefs outlining a framework for addressing disparities through telehealth utilization and how stakeholders can engage to support telehealth utilization and access.
- Digital Infrastructure Disparities Map as an interactive tool that identifies where there are digital infrastructure gaps in counties across the United States.
- Economic and Social Value Add (ESVA) Calculator that estimates the cost to implement and sustain telehealth solutions based on the digital infrastructure of a given area, as well as which stakeholders should be involved and stand to benefit from said solutions.
THS also facilitates and supports two workgroups that provide strategic leadership to ATA’s approach to policy and advocacy. The Data Workgroup develops policy positions and strategies focused on emerging issues of data privacy, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. The ATA’s Patient Voices for Telehealth Coalition (PVTC) amplifies patients’ voices in developing telehealth policies. Both of these groups ensure that ATA’s policy approach is based on sound approaches that can increase patient access to high-quality, trustworthy digital health solutions.
At THS, we believe that system transformation is key to the future of our nation’s health and wellbeing. Clients like the ATA are leveraging technology, sound policy and clinical innovation to bring care to every corner of the country, and to everyone who needs it.
 Telehealth Awareness Week is an annual event that aims to highlight the significance of virtual health care services in today’s digital age. Through webinars, seminars, workshops, and informational campaigns, Telehealth Awareness Week sheds light on how telehealth has transformed the way health care services are delivered, making healthcare more convenient and accessible to individuals across the globe.