Scope of Interest

As society continues to become more technology-based, the likelihood of a digital divide decreases with more individuals using technology on a daily basis. The digital gap, or divide, refers to inequalities in access to, and knowledge of communication and information technology (IT). However, vulnerable populations, including women, rural or underserved communities, elderly or disabled individuals, or individuals of low socioeconomic status (SES), are at an increased risk of being part of this digital gap. When associating a digital divide with the practice of Telehealth, individuals are limited in their access to and knowledge of health literacy as well as technology. Technology has a dominant presence in much of the world’s culture today; therefore, there is an increased importance to bridge the digital divide and create equal access to healthcare for all.
 
 

Connectivity

Connectivity describes whether infrastructure provides individuals with the means to access services. Thus are encompassed whether broadband services are available, whether the broadband speed is sufficient, as well as whether other avenues like satellite connection or connection exclusively through mobile devices (mHealth) are available. Low connectivity is defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a download speed slower than 25 Mbps. While there have been considerable policy efforts led by various federal entities aimed at improving broadband access in underserved areas, there are considerable pockets of low connectivity, both in urban and rural settings (Perzynski et. al, 2017). Because it is the main driver of reduced telehealth uptake and is associated with disparities in health outcomes, researchers consider broadband access at home as a Social Determinant of Health (Perzynski et. al, 2017). Wilcock et. al (2019) try to quantify the impact of low connectivity on telemedicine use. They show that in fully rural counties, greater broadband access is associated with greater telemedicine use, with counties with low broadband availability having 34% fewer visits per capita. The effect is less clear in urban, suburban or partial rural communities. Perzynski et. al (2017) found that urban populations may suffer from greater connectivity issues due to social and economic disparities.