Delivering Healthcare through Teleconsultations: Implication on Offline Healthcare Disparity

50 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017 Last revised: 9 Nov 2020

See all articles by Elina H. Hwang

Elina H. Hwang

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Xitong Guo

Harbin Institute of Technology

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Yuanyuan DANG

Harbin Institute of Technology

Date Written: June 1, 2017

Abstract

Teleconsultations allow patients to search, receive, and pay for medical consultations virtually. With its remote diagnosis and treatment capability, teleconsultations are proposed as a potential solution to a longstanding social problem, geographic disparities in healthcare. While it sounds promising, it is unclear whether teleconsultations actually mobilize healthcare access to underserved regions because there might be unforeseen frictions that suppress the virtual flow of healthcare. To understand the role of teleconsultations on geographic healthcare disparity, we first empirically investigate whether teleconsultations generate a virtual flow of healthcare to mitigate resource disparity. Second, we examine social, information, and geography frictions on the virtual healthcare flow. To this end, we curate unique longitudinal data that capture regional offline health resources and various regional characteristics and match them with teleconsultation instances over ten years (2006 ~ 2015). Our Exponential Random Graph Model analysis provides encouraging empirical evidence that teleconsultations connect physicians in resourceful regions and patients in underserved areas, a desirable direction that can alleviate geographic healthcare disparity. We find that social and information frictions, such as cultural and linguistic differences and limited media coverage, suppress the supposedly free flow of teleconsultations across regions. Further, while teleconsultation is anticipated to spark long-distance healthcare, we find that teleconsultations are less likely as regions become farther apart. We examine two plausible mechanisms that may contribute to the observed geography friction: (1) low information bandwidth of a teleconsultation channel, and (2) financial constraint of patients in underserved areas. Supplementary analyses using granular data (fees, physician ranks, and illness types) provide corroborating evidence to the proposed mechanisms.

Keywords: telemedicine, healthcare disparity, Exponential Random Graph Model

Suggested Citation

Hwang, Elina H. and Guo, Xitong and Tan, Yong and DANG, Yuanyuan, Delivering Healthcare through Teleconsultations: Implication on Offline Healthcare Disparity (June 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2988340 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2988340

Elina H. Hwang (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353200
Seattle, WA 98195-3200
United States

Xitong Guo

Harbin Institute of Technology ( email )

huanghe road
harbin, heilongjiang 150001
China

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353226
Seattle, WA 98195-3226
United States

Yuanyuan DANG

Harbin Institute of Technology

huanghe road
harbin, heilongjiang 150001
China

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