About this Blog Series

   Mei Kwong, JD

Growing up in California, Mei Kwong, JD, dreamed of becoming a singer or an actress, but never planned on becoming an attorney, much less a nationally recognized, telehealth policy expert. In 2010, with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Kwong suddenly had an opportunity to become a policy analyst at the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) and she has never looked back. CCHP is a nonprofit organization established in California in 2008 to help improve care delivery and health outcomes through telehealth.

Over the years, Kwong has guided the organization to become national in its scope and now, as executive director, she says while telehealth “is not appropriate for every situation, it is efficient, time-saving, and in some cases superior” to in-person care. “I really believe in the technology and believe it can help people,” she adds.

Telehealth Policy Changes Prompted by the Pandemic

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to cripple healthcare systems nationwide, Kwong and her team at CCHP found themselves rushing to keep up with changes in telehealth policies. “Policies were changing so rapidly at the state and federal level,” Kwong recalls, remembering that it was difficult to remain current from hour to hour. Understandably, she notes, guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was constantly being updated in the face of a global pandemic.

“A lot of the established telehealth policies are around insurance reimbursement, but [provider] licensure and prescription policies are also impacted by telehealth and were changing due to the pandemic,” explains Kwong. She and her team were able to work closely with policy makers, though, and consistently reminded them at the height of the pandemic that “each patient is unique, each situation is unique, and all options [including telehealth] should be available to providers” to address patients’ diverse concerns.

If telehealth is a way to get care to [underserved communities], let’s get it to them.

Mei Kwong, JD Executive Director, Center for Connected Health Policy

Disparities in Digital Literacy

Kwong notes that often the most vulnerable patients, including the elderly and people who speak English as a second language, are less likely to be tech savvy and may experience issues communicating on a digital platform. She adds that while these same patients may be good candidates for telehealth, lack of digital literacy can be a significant barrier. At the state and local levels, a number of programs to improve access to and enhance the use of digital devices have been developed.

Kwong feels more needs to be done, however, particularly at the federal level. As the internet slowly becomes more available to underserved communities through funding initiatives for broadband, Kwong hopes that telehealth can help overcome other barriers to care. “If telehealth is a way to get care to people, let’s get it to them.”

Hear more from Kwong during the Equitable Use of Telehealth Post COVID-19: Learnings and Future Directions from PCORI-Funded Portfolios and Products breakout session. View the full annual meeting agenda and register now!


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About the 2022 PCORI Annual Meeting Blog Series

In the weeks leading up to the Annual Meeting on October 26 and 27, we are featuring a different breakout session panelist, their patient-centered work, and their participation in sessions on COVID-19, health equity, intellectual and developmental disabilities, maternal health, social determinants of health, and telehealth.

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