Factors Associated with First-Time Telehealth Utilization for Marshallese Living in the United States

Telemed Rep. 2021 Oct 7;2(1):217-223. doi: 10.1089/tmr.2021.0023. eCollection 2021.


Background: Mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 included the robust utilization of telehealth. However, racial/ethnic minority populations have demonstrated low telehealth utilization in the past. The aim of this study was to examine the first-time use of telehealth by Marshallese adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, using online survey data collected from 109 Marshallese respondents between July and November of 2020. Methods: To evaluate the relationships between sociodemographic characteristics, health care access, physical/mental health, and COVID-19-specific measures and the decision to use telehealth, we use bivariate analyses, including t-tests and chi-square analysis. Results: Eighteen respondents (16.5%) indicated they utilized telehealth for the first time during the pandemic. The number of chronic conditions reported was positively associated with the first-time use of telehealth (p = 0.013). Although not statistically significant, a higher proportion of Marshallese first-time telehealth users reported limited English proficiency, changes in health status, and changes in health insurance. Discussion: Although telehealth has been shown to reduce the absolute gaps in health disparities for minority populations, there is limited utilization by Marshallese communities. Conclusions: Significant research remains on the utilization of telehealth by Marshallese during the COVID-19 pandemic and to increase utilization in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; Marshallese; health care disparities; outcome assessment; telemedicine.