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Federal Project Aims to Use Virtual Care to Address Health Inequity

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   August 11, 2023

UNC-Chapel Hill will use a five-year, $3.73 million NIH grant to establish the Center for Virtual Care Value and Equity (ViVE)

A new program in North Carolina aims to research and develop virtual care services that address health inequity.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use a five-year, $3.73 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National center for Advancing Translational Sciences to launch the Center for Virtual Care Value and Equity (ViVE).

“This groundbreaking initiative is pivotal for healthcare innovation and demonstrates Carolina’s leadership in virtual care research,” Saif Khairat, PhD, MPH, an associate professor and Beerstecher-Blackwell Distinguished Term Scholar in the UNC School of Nursing, associate director of the Carolina Health Informatics Program and director of the Carolina Applied Informatics Research Lab, said in a press release. “The Center for ViVE will foster expertise in virtual care data and create workforce development opportunities with its partners throughout North Carolina and the nation.”

The project is one of many across the country aiming to apply new technologies and strategies to an ongoing challenge: Breaking down the barriers to care that impact underserved populations. Those barriers are often called social determinants of health, and can include family, work and transportation issues, cultural pressures, technical literacy, and behavioral health concerns.

The pandemic brought to the forefront the value of telehealth in improving access to care, but it also highlighted those barriers.

"While telehealth services have made healthcare more convenient to some groups, certain populations remain underserved due to lack of access to technology and financial instability," UNC officials said in the press release. "The challenge of promoting health equity in virtual care is often overlooked due to the complex issues involved in implementing virtual care, such as patient privacy, reimbursement models, new workflows, and technology adoption."

The new center will work alongside UNC's North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute and the NIH's Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program network to collect virtual care data and develop standards and guidelines for the design, implementation and evaluation of virtual care programs.  

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Millions of Americans struggle to access healthcare because of social determinants of health, or non-clinical barriers like transportation, technical literacy, employment, and cultural norms.

While telehealth use soared during the pandemic, its value in addressing health inequity is tempered by challenges like reimbursement, privacy, new workflows and technology adoption.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use an NIH grant to establish a new center that will study how to develop and launch virtual care programs that address health inequity.

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