Today we launch the Digital Health Story Collection, an opportunity for health care providers and health care users to share experiences with or difficulties accessing telehealth care across the country. Share your story and help us tell policymakers why having access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet service is critical for health and well-being.
As we enter 2022 amid a new wave of Covid-19 infections, we are reminded of the critical necessity for all people to have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet service. Such service makes it possible to work and learn remotely, stay connected with friends and family, access vital public health information, and find employment or housing - all critical for maintaining our physical and mental health. Internet access has also enabled many people to access healthcare remotely through telehealth services, ensuring continuity of care while limiting in-person contact and reducing exposure to the coronavirus.
The pandemic triggered a massive expansion of telehealth, but it’s not available to everyone equally. This is partly because not everyone has broadband Internet access. But it’s also because not everyone has the devices, skills, or level of comfort they need to take advantage of Internet access, even if they have it.
This digital divide disproportionately impacts rural, low-income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities who already face significant health disparities. As such, telehealth is the least available where it is most needed and could have the greatest impact. As health and digital equity advocates have pointed out, if we don’t significantly and meaningfully promote digital inclusion, we risk entrenching, even worsening, existing health disparities.
Frustratingly, whenever the notion of using public dollars to expand affordable broadband infrastructure comes up, there is hand wringing about capping costs. This is despite the fact that however much solving the infrastructure gap costs it still pales in comparison to our ever-ballooning healthcare spending ($4.1 trillion dollars in 2020 alone). Such arguments also miss the point that digital health technologies, including telehealth, offer the chance not only to improve health outcomes and make healthcare more accessible for more people, but to save billions of dollars annually in avoided healthcare costs.
The Digital Health Story Collection
Through the Digital Health Story Collection, we want to document the benefits and challenges of telehealth for real people, families, and communities, as well as the costs, burdens, and inequities associated with a lack of telehealth access.
So, what’s your story?
We invite you to tell us, in your own words, how telehealth has helped you or your family. If you’re a healthcare provider, tell us about your experiences with telehealth and how it has served your patients. You can also tell us how telehealth has frustrated you, why you love or hate it, why you won’t or can’t use it, or why you wish you could. Your experiences and perspectives will inform our development of policy advocacy materials, helping us to communicate to policymakers why digital inclusion matters for health and health equity.
Inline image from kamleshverm via Pixabay