JB Henson et al. Hepatology 2023; 77: 176-185. Access to technology to support telehealth in areas without specialty care for liver disease
Key finding: Technology access was lowest in areas with low access to care and the highest burden of liver‐related mortality.
Editorial: S Wadhwani, JC Lai. Hepatology 2023; 77: 13-14. Open Access! The digital determinants of liver disease
The authors found that counties with decreased access to gastroenterologists and liver transplant centers had increased county‐level liver‐related mortality. These counties tended to have residents who were more likely to be living in poverty, have lower educational attainment, have less access to primary care, and be living in a rural location. These same counties were less likely to have access to the high‐quality connectivity necessary to engage in telehealth appointments, demonstrating that telehealth in its current iteration will be unable to overcome health inequities in liver disease. For telehealth to be a viable solution to overcoming disparities in liver‐related mortality, the United States will need to tackle the “digital divide.”
My take: The same patients who have trouble seeing a liver specialist due to distance, transportation issues, and poverty are much less likely to have a good internet connection. Without this digital access, telehealth cannot help solve the disparity in care.
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