Disparities in Telehealth Utilization in a Population of Publicly Insured Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Popul Health Manag. 2022 Apr;25(2):178-185. doi: 10.1089/pop.2021.0343.

ABSTRACT

Telehealth became a crucial vehicle for health care delivery in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, little research exists on inequities in telehealth utilization among the pediatric population. This study examines disparities in telehealth utilization in a population of publicly insured children. This observational, retrospective study used administrative data from Alabama’s stand-alone Children’s Health Insurance Program, ALL Kids. Rates of any telehealth use for March to December 2020 were examined. In addition-to capture lack of health care utilization-rates of having no medical claims were examined and compared with March to December 2019 and 2018. Multinomial logit models were estimated to investigate how telehealth use and having no medical claims (reference category: having medical claims but no telehealth) were associated with race/ethnicity, rural-urban residence, and family income. Of the 106,478 enrollees over March to December 2020, 13.4% had any telehealth use and 24.7% had no medical claims. The latter was greater than no medical claims in 2019 (19.5%) and 2018 (20.7%). Black and Hispanic children had lower odds of any telehealth use (odds ratio [OR]: 0.81, P < 0.01; OR: 0.68, P < 0.01) and higher odds of no medical claims (OR: 1.11, P < 0.05; OR: 1.73, P < 0.05) than non-Hispanic White children. Rural residents had lower odds of telehealth use than urban residents. Those in the highest family income-based fee group had higher odds of telehealth use than the lowest family income-based fee group. As telehealth will likely continue to play an important role in health care delivery, additional efforts/investments are required to ensure telehealth does not further exacerbate inequities in pediatric health care access.

PMID:35442789 | DOI:10.1089/pop.2021.0343