Bridging the Digital Divide: Advancing Telehealth Equity
The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on health and contributed to new and unprecedented access to care challenges. At the onset of the pandemic, when safe access to in-person care was very limited, policymakers, health plans, and providers collaborated on a broad expansion of telehealth services to safely provide people with continued healthcare. This coordinated response was crucial for ensuring continued access to timely primary, behavioral health, and chronic disease care for residents of the Commonwealth. However, the shift to virtual care was also accompanied by initial reports of uneven adoption of telehealth across populations.
Underlying this is the digital divide, the interconnected variations in the population related to who has access to technological devices, who has the digital literacy to use them properly, who has the financial means to afford broadband internet and devices, and who lives in areas with reliable internet infrastructure required to make them functional. Historically, those most adversely impacted by the digital divide include seniors, low-income Black people, people who do not speak English, and people who live in a rural community.