Article Highlights:

  • As healthcare continues to lean on technological innovations, a new social determinant of health is coming to the forefront: the digital divide. The digital divide is the chasm between those who have access to technologies and the digital literacy to work them, and those who don’t. In healthcare, the digital divide can lead to disparities in patient portal adoption, telehealth care access, or ability to utilize patient-facing practice management software, like online appointment schedulers.
  • In more recent years, healthcare experts have learned that the digital divide is more nuanced than that. Some older adults may be excited to utilize telehealth, while a younger, potentially low-income, patient might not have the infrastructure to support it. Population health leaders are starting to look into the digital divide and where it is leading to health inequities and ultimately health disparities. In uncovering those issues, experts can craft better multimodal patient engagement strategies account for equity.
  • Separate data suggested that this digital divide, like other social determinants of health, had an impact on patient health and wellness. An Urban Institute report showed telehealth care access disparities falling along racial lines. Those disparities coincided with high rates of unmet medical needs among those already in poor health and those with public health insurance coverage.

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