Recommendations for Health Equity and Virtual Care Arising From the COVID-19 Pandemic: Narrative Review

JMIR Form Res. 2021 Apr 5;5(4):e23233. doi: 10.2196/23233.


Background: The COVID-19 health crisis has disproportionately impacted populations who have been historically marginalized in health care and public health, including low-income and racial and ethnic minority groups. Members of marginalized communities experience undue barriers to accessing health care through virtual care technologies, which have become the primary mode of ambulatory health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Insights generated during the COVID-19 pandemic can inform strategies to promote health equity in virtual care now and in the future.

Objective: The aim of this study is to generate insights arising from literature that was published in direct response to the widespread use of virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and had a primary focus on providing recommendations for promoting health equity in the delivery of virtual care.

Methods: We conducted a narrative review of literature on health equity and virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic published in 2020, describing strategies that have been proposed in the literature at three levels: (1) policy and government, (2) organizations and health systems, and (3) communities and patients.

Results: We highlight three strategies for promoting health equity through virtual care that have been underaddressed in this literature: (1) simplifying complex interfaces and workflows, (2) using supportive intermediaries, and (3) creating mechanisms through which marginalized community members can provide immediate input into the planning and delivery of virtual care.

Conclusions: We conclude by outlining three areas of work that are required to ensure that virtual care is employed in ways that are equity enhancing in a post-COVID-19 reality.

Keywords: COVID-19; digital health; health disparities; health equity; health informatics; telehealth; telemedicine; virtual care.

Publication types

  • Review