Technology and Broadband Access for Health Literacy Programs
Digital tools, such as smartphone-based health apps and online patient portals, can greatly enhance patient
engagement, support, and health outcomes. However, programs using these tools may find it difficult to engage
patients who do not have the digital skills, training, or broadband access to utilize these tools
Reliable, high-speed internet access continues to be a challenge in some parts of the U.S., often in more remote
and rural locations. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 25% or more of people living in rural
communities and tribal areas still lack
broadband access. Rural residents also are less
likely to own a smartphone or computer. These disparities present clear barriers for rural health
literacy programs incorporating digital health components and health information technology.
These divides in technology and internet access also make it even more important for programs to focus on
methods for improving digital
health literacy. Improving digital health literacy can help ensure that when people are presented with
digital health information, the design is intentional and considers a variety of comprehension levels. Programs
that incorporate health technology into interventions may wish to consider if it is feasible to provide
different options for accessing the information: for example, through patient portals, websites, or mobile apps.
As rural health literacy programs look to use new technology to provide care to communities, it is important to
implement digitally inclusive strategies and focus on improving digital
health equity. To better support communities in their use of technology, rural health literacy programs
Conducting user testing and incorporating the perspectives of rural community members and rural experts in
the design of digital programming
Partnering with community members with experience in digital literacy training and facilitating
connectivity, such as librarians, community health workers, and patient navigators
Assessing broadband access and digital literacy across communities served
Incorporating health literacy principles in design and implementation
Providing digital skill training to community members and staff
Using several different approaches to engage people, such as text messages, mobile apps, and online portals
that limit the use of medical jargon
For more information about broadband access in rural communities and considerations for adopting health
information technology for health literacy programs, see the Health
Information Technology in Rural Healthcare Topic Guide.
Resources to Learn More
Broadband Anchor Institutions Drive Telehealth in Rural Areas
Discusses the importance of collaboration between institutions, such as schools, libraries, government
buildings, and healthcare centers, to facilitate telehealth access and adoption and advance public health.
Author(s): Settles, C.
Organization(s): Daily Yonder
Digital Health in a Broadband
The Role of Digital Health Literacy within Rural Environments
Highlights the benefits of using digital technology for improving digital health literacy in rural areas.
Describes the skills required for navigating digital health technology and identifies methods to evaluate,
assess, and support digital health literacy in rural populations.
Author(s): Sui, W., Facca, D.
Citation: Health Science Inquiry, 11(1)
Digital Inclusion as a Social Determinant of
Discusses how the reliance on digital tools and internet connectivity for populations lacking the skills to use
or access them can be identified as a social determinant of health. Provides recommendations for healthcare
systems promoting equitable distribution of information and access to communication technologies.
Author(s): Sieck, C.J., Sheon, A., Ancker, J.S., et al.
Citation: npj Digital Medicine, 4, 52