Tackling the Digital Divide by Improving Internet and Telehealth Access for Low-Income Populations

September 18, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in telehealth utilization in order to still provide care and keep patients safe by reducing contact with potentially infected individuals and stemming the spread of the virus. A digital divide already existed preCOVID and the pandemic exacerbated it by making health care access more dependent on reliable and affordable high-speed internet and digital devices, including cell phones and other electronic devices with cameras for phone and video visits. In 2019, 22% of adults with an income of less than $30,000/yr did not own a smartphone and 44% did not have broadband access at home. Without these points of access, many low-income individuals are unable to receive quality healthcare during the pandemic and forgo care. Unmanaged chronic conditions are the “collateral damage” of COVID-19 and these impacts disproportionately impact low-income families. In order to ensure that low-income populations are not further left behind due to the pandemic, several actions need to be taken.

Read the policy brief here.