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Combatting Digital Access Disparities

In many rural and low-income communities across the nation, an inadequate broadband infrastructure hinders the use of virtual care and telehealth solutions. More than one-third of rural Americans report that the lack of high-speed internet and/or access to a computer are obstacles to their use of telehealth services.  

First and foremost, the technological infrastructure of any care management or remote monitoring platform must support all patient populations, including the 43% of lower-income adults without broadband services at home. According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of American adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are smartphone-only internet users, a percentage which has more than doubled since 2013.

Many platforms and applications intentionally compensate for the digital divide in their system design, using architecture that allows users to watch videos without streaming them, for example. System design must also be mobile-friendly, as disadvantaged populations are less likely to own a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. 

Short message service (SMS)-enabled platforms, which allow patients to opt into receiving and sending texts, can be a smart alternative to web-based technology. Research shows that two-way interactive text messaging between patients and clinicians can be a successful health intervention tool, as it engages patients with complex healthcare needs and is user-friendly for clinical staff. Compared with other means of communication, text messaging has the highest reach with open rates of 95% or above and response rates more than 200% higher than for email. 

Read our latest whitepaper, The Drive for Health Equity: Reducing Barriers to Care in Orthopedics to learn how your organization can increase engagement with disadvantaged populations and ensure greater health equity for all. 

 

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