Building telehealth equity: Insights from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

PR Newswire
Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at 2:45pm UTC

Building telehealth equity: Insights from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

PR Newswire

New study identifies five recommendations for improving health care equity

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., July 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has released the findings of a new telehealth study done in partnership with Connected Nation Michigan (CN Michigan) with support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. The research provides new insights into how the Tribal members use telehealth, what barriers exist, and attitudes toward telehealth.

We want to improve health equity among all tribe members — ensuring they have access to critical health care resources.

"We want to improve health equity among all tribe members — ensuring they have access to the critical health care resources that can help improve their quality of life," said Larry Jacques, Director of Strategic Planning for the Sault Tribe. "Telehealth can save Tribe members time and money; connect them with high-quality health services; and ensure continued access to health care practitioners when weather or health concerns makes it difficult to travel."

The study was conducted using a series of surveys and virtual conversations with Tribe members. The purpose was to identify ways Tribal health clinics can expand their telehealth efforts, identify unmet demand, and address concerns that may prevent some Tribe members from adopting telehealth services.

"Native Americans have long experienced poorer health outcomes than other populations in the United States," said Chris McGovern, Director of Research Development for CN Michigan. "Telehealth is one way we can bridge those gaps and improve health equity."

Some of the surveys' key takeaways include:

  • Nearly 2 out of 5 surveyed households (38.1%) reported having used telehealth services.
  • A similar share of telehealth non-adopters (41%) expressed interest in using telehealth despite not having used it in the past.
  • Nearly one-quarter of respondents (23.7%) said that telehealth visits are comparable to in-person visits.
  • More than 2 out of 5 survey respondents (41.8%) said that telehealth visits are good for initial consultations or basic care, while 34.5% believed it would never match in-person quality of care.
  • In general, young populations (age 18 to 34) had a more favorable view of telehealth visits.

In addition, CN Michigan spoke with Tribe leadership and its health care providers to learn what barriers may exist for expanding telehealth. Three key takeaways emerged:

  1. Telehealth services are currently being offered to patients through Tribal health clinics.
  2. Expanding broadband infrastructure in the Upper Peninsula is crucial to improving telehealth access.
  3. Health care providers and their patients face challenges when adapting to telehealth services, but they consider its numerous benefits to be worth the extra effort.

Based on the research of both local and national trends, Tribal leadership and CN Michigan identified five recommendations for expanding the use and understanding of telehealth's benefits.

  1. Tribal health clinics should seek out ways to promote their telehealth services.
  2. Clinics should prepare all telehealth patients to engage with their provider prior to their appointment.
  3. All health care providers in the region should provide training to medical staff to ensure Tribe members are met with cultural sensitivity.
  4. Tribal health clinics should create a systemwide online patient portal.
  5. Policymakers should continue to support efforts around expansion of broadband infrastructure.

To learn more about the above findings and recommendations, access the entire report by heading here.

About the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians: Sault Tribe is a 44,000-strong federally recognized Indian tribe that is an economic, social, and cultural force in its community across the eastern Upper Peninsula counties of Chippewa, Luce, Mackinac, Schoolcraft, Alger, Delta, and Marquette. The Tribe is composed of housing and Tribal centers, casinos, and other enterprises that employ both Natives and non-Natives and fund Tribal programs. Sault Tribe works hard to be self-sufficient, good stewards of the land and waters, and helpful to the surrounding community. Learn more at

About Connected Nation Michigan: CN Michigan is a local division of the national nonprofit Connected Nation, which marked 20 years of service in 2021. Connected Nation's mission is to improve lives by providing innovative solutions that expand access to, and increase the adoption and use of, broadband (high-speed internet) and its related technologies for all people. Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. Learn more at

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SOURCE Connected Nation