The Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center serves approximately 38,000 patients who are predominantly Native Hawaiian on the rural western coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Telehealth technology could increase access to care, but Waianae patients face barriers around digital literacy and Internet access: many Hawaiian elders, known as “Kupuna,” are not comfortable using web-based applications; patients have an average annual household income of under $18,000, making it difficult to afford data plans; and some areas of Waianae have limited access to broadband services. Through the support of HRSA’s Optimizing Virtual Care (OVC) grant, Waianae launched innovative telehealth solutions to overcome these barriers and expand access to care.
To improve digital literacy and increase comfort with using web-based applications and telehealth platforms, Waianae launched a specialized training program for older adults. The health center created it to be completed in one session and offered transportation to the Kupuna from their community to the training site in order to reach as many people as possible. Additionally, through a new community partnership, Waianae provided a free refurbished laptop to each participant at the completion of the program. A total of six sessions have been offered and 65 participants have completed the program.
In addition, to expand access to high-speed Internet for telehealth services, Waianae placed telehealth kiosks in two of their satellite locations. The kiosks have computers and video cameras, allowing patients to connect with providers at other sites. Since the launch of the first kiosk in May 2022, Waianae has conducted over 250 social service encounters and telehealth visits through the kiosks. The health center is also working to develop and introduce a community access web-based application called Comp Health Connect, which will connect patients with a broad range of social and community services.
Overall, more than half of Waianae patients now have access to telehealth services thanks in large part to these innovative solutions. A Kupuna who completed the program shared, "Mahalo for the refurbished laptop. Mahalo for feeding us. Mahalo for providing Navigators to help us, and we needed lots of help! Mahalo for your Aloha and patience. You helped make our lives better."