Disparities In Telehealth Use Among California Patients With Limited English Proficiency

Health Aff (Millwood). 2021 Mar;40(3):487-495. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00823.


Telehealth services that allow remote communication between the patient and the clinical team are an emerging part of care delivery. Given language barriers, patients with limited English proficiency present a unique set of challenges in integrating telehealth and ensuring equity. Using data from 84,419 respondents in the 2015-18 California Health Interview Survey, we assessed the association between limited English proficiency and telehealth use (telephone and video visits) and evaluated the impact of telehealth use on health care access and use. We found that patients with limited English proficiency had lower rates of telehealth use (4.8 percent versus 12.3 percent) compared with proficient English speakers. In weighted multivariable logistic regression, patients with limited English proficiency still had about half the odds of using telehealth. Telehealth use was associated with increased emergency department use for all patients. This study suggests that policy makers and clinicians must focus on limited English proficiency as an important dimension to promote telehealth equity and decrease digital divides.

PMID:33646862 | DOI:10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00823