Lawmakers must protect technology that powers health equity

Lawmakers should consider how anti-innovation policies intended to regulate our technology companies could threaten the delivery of health and wellness care in our vulnerable communities.

Chantina Wilson runs through process of telehealth on May 2022 at an office at Salem Baptist Church in Roseland.

Chantina Wilson runs through process of telehealth on May 2022 at an office at Salem Baptist Church in Roseland.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Historically, holistic health and wellness services have been notably absent from Chicago’s Black and brown communities. While the past few years brought needed attention to the racial and ethnic disparities that persist in health care, racial minorities are still at a greater risk for challenges like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other potentially life-threatening health conditions.

Thanks to advances in innovation, we have an opportunity to positively impact health outcomes for our city’s underserved communities through an integrated approach to wellness. Doing so requires we acknowledge the vital role of telehealth in making health services accessible, while calling on policymakers to preserve and protect the technology and innovation that underpins these critical services.

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My practice, Chicago Integrated Health, delivers holistic wellness services in a fully virtual environment, a model that is helping advance health equity in our most underserved neighborhoods. Telehealth visits enable us to reach patients who don’t have access to transportation, parents who can’t afford child care and individuals who may have trouble visiting a clinic while holding down multiple jobs.

Our virtual practice continues to help us attract and retain quality clinicians who need flexibility in their schedules, and offers a competitive wage with money that would otherwise go toward overhead. The efficiencies we’ve found in this digital environment save us time and money that we use to reach more people.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was right when he said telemedicine is here to stay, and we are grateful for his efforts to ensure these services are covered by insurance companies.

Now, we need our lawmakers in Washington to follow suit, weighing how anti-innovation policies intended to regulate our technology companies could threaten the delivery of health and wellness care in our vulnerable communities. Providers across Chicago rely on innovation to power the tools that connect us to patients, keep private health information secure and affordably market our services to members of our communities.

I hope our elected officials will consider the unintended consequences of policies and work to develop laws that protect and advance health equity.

Iris Patterson, founder of Chicago Integrated Health

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