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FCC grants $1M to Regions, HealthPartners to help bridge technology gap for patients

The pandemic taught us that telehealth can expand options for many people, but it also taught us that the new technology created disparities for others.

ST PAUL, Minn. — During the pandemic we learned that access to health care could be expanded through telehealth, but we also learned there were limitations to the technology. The folks at Regions and HealthPartners are trying to change that with a new grant.

“How do we make sure we don't make disparities in care worse? We're actually bringing that together,” said Dr. Jerome Siy.

Before we ever heard of COVID-19, Regions Hospital and HealthPartners were working to make health care more accessible. The pandemic gave that work rocket boosters, if you will, but also made something very apparent: It wasn't working for everyone.

“That accessibility spans from communities that are especially in rural areas, where they may not have internet access, to communities where they might have a smartphone, but they don't know how to use the complexities of the phone to be able to do these virtual care visits," said Siy.

With a million-dollar grant from the FCC, they're now putting technology into place that bridges the gap.

“We can bring on software and tools that make it as easy as a push of a button. They are sent a link into their home chart or a text message, and they can click the link and it's right there,” he says.

In rural areas, where resources and staffing are an issue, it goes even deeper allowing for care right in the home.

“For those vulnerable populations that really need more care continuously, they may be able to be monitored at home with devices that can connect through satellite, and then be integrated — that information is integrated into our electronic medical records,” said Siy.

He also says being thoughtful about how we use technology to advance medicine will lead to expanding access, but it's not the only answer.

“We need to be able to hold somebody's hand. We need to be able to wipe tears, and we need to be able to celebrate with somebody, so that human touch can't go away and it won't go away," he said.