Jefferson Launches Center for Connected Care
Philadelphia (28 Sept 2021) – Telehealth offers opportunity to decrease health disparities and improve overall health outcomes across populations. It gives people options about where, when, and how to receive care amidst their often quite chaotic lives. Yet there is an existing digital divide that – if unattended – threatens to widen health inequities as medicine increasingly uses digital tools for seamless access for healthcare. The FCC reports that approximately 19 million Americans, or 6% of the population, still lack access to broadband internet service. And even those who have broadband report struggles: a recent Pew report finding that 60% of broadband users with lower incomes often or sometimes have connection problems and close to half are worried about paying for broadband.
To tackle this issue, Thomas Jefferson University recently launched the Jefferson Center for Connected Care, which will focus on research, innovation and education all designed to unpack and overcome the various barriers to digital access.
“The pandemic accelerated the trend to virtual care at home, and it showed us how many people are at risk of being left behind as the digital gap grows,” said the Center’s leader, physician and scientist Kristin Rising, MD MSHP, faculty member in Jefferson’s Department of Emergency Medicine in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College and in the College of Nursing. “We want to conduct the research and provide the training needed to ensure equitable virtual access as medicine uses digital tools to increasingly care for people at home.”
Jefferson has been a pioneer in research, education and practice of telehealth for more than a decade.
“The future of healthcare depends on helping people thrive wherever they are, what I call healthcare at any address,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. “We’ve created this center to ensure that as connected care expands, all people and all communities benefit.”
To help determine best practices for the future of telehealth, the new center has received a national award of $250,000 from PCORI (the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute) to host a national consensus conference in the Spring of 2022 focused on developing a patient-centered research agenda to reduce disparities in telehealth uptake, as well as numerous other awards.
The consensus conference will help focus on the issues of equitable care, Dr. Rising said. “Our goal is to partner with patients to identify best practices, understand knowledge gaps, prioritize research questions, and set a national patient-centered research agenda to reduce disparities in telehealth uptake.”
This consensus conference stems from Dr. Rising’s previous research on barriers to connected care. During the 2020 pandemic, she received $922,000 of CARES ACT money for Jefferson to distribute smart devices to patients. This work revealed the extent to which patients have other digital readiness needs outside of just technology access. Further, a study she conducted with other Jefferson researchers identified trust as a greater barrier to digital readiness than age, cognitive ability, or access.
About the Center:
In addition to its core research on equitable connected care, the new Jefferson Center for Connected Care will house training fellowships and other research initiatives extending beyond telehealth to help connect other fragmented parts of the health and social systems.
It will house the Jefferson Telehealth Leadership Fellowship, directed by Anna Marie Chang, MD MSCE and Judd Hollander, MD. The same team in 2015 launched Jefferson’s telehealth service, JeffConnect, and facilitated virtual care by all specialties at the health system. This enterprise-wide system built upon earlier programs developed at Jefferson to provide stroke and other neurology services by telehealth to a wide range of community partners.
The Center faculty will also support a new T32 postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) focusing on behavioral health, addiction, primary care and telehealth, run by Lara Carson Weinstein, MD, MPH.
The Center is working closely with regional initiatives and organizations including the City of Philadelphia, and the nonprofits Esperanza and MANNA.
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