Ariadne Labs Launches Joint Effort to Develop Equity-Based Telehealth Best Practices

January 29, 2021 – Ariadne Labs and Boston University School of Public Health announced the launch of work to develop equity-based telehealth best practices for Medicaid-enrolled patients with chronic conditions. The work will be supported by generous grants from the Donaghue Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Ariadne Labs Primary Health Care faculty June-Ho Kim, MD, MPH, and BUSPH’s Megan Cole Brahim, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of health law, policy, and management, will lead the work. The project will also include collaboration with Community Care Cooperative (C3), a statewide Medicaid accountable care organization made up of 18 federally-funded community health centers across Massachusetts. 

Over the next two years, Kim and Cole will lead research using data from electronic records, insurance claims, and patient surveys to evaluate how telehealth has affected the quality, cost, and equity of care for patients with chronic diseases, including how the effects of telehealth may have varied by race, ethnicity, and language. They will gather insights directly from patient representatives and FQHC leadership to better understand experiences and develop best practices.

“In particular, we want to transform the care for patients living with the physical and financial burdens of chronic illness and those who face barriers due to their lower income, race, and language,” says Kim. “Telehealth is a promising but unproven tool. This project is about trying to better utilize that tool to make health care truly meet patients where they are, both literally and figuratively.”

“Through this partnership, we’re thrilled to bring together the wide array of strengths and resources of the three organizations to accelerate innovation at a time of rapid change around the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

As of 2019, less than a quarter of the country’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) were using any type of telehealth to provide real-time virtual care directly to patients. By June of 2020, 98 percent were using telehealth in some capacity.  

“Our goal is to generate an evidence base for providers and policymakers in Massachusetts and across the US as they make decisions about what telehealth might look like post-COVID, and how it can be used to improve quality, equity, and value of care for the most vulnerable,” Cole says.

“Post-COVID, telehealth can be used to improve access to primary and specialty care for patients who previously faced barriers making it to in-person visits,” she says. “Patients may no longer need to take a day off from work or take three buses across town to make it to an appointment. At the same time, patients with inadequate access to technology or internet, or who require interpretation services, may not experience these same benefits—that is, unless the telehealth delivery model tries to bridge these gaps.”

In addition to C3, they will also work with the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers—which, with C3, co-leads the Massachusetts FQHC Telehealth Consortium of 35 FQHCs.