Digital technology, broadband access and inequalities
Digital technology has the potential to reduce health inequalities by enabling people to access information and tools to help better manage their health and any disabilities. It also offers choices for patients who cannot engage with health practitioners in healthcare settings. However, technology itself can provide barriers and exacerbate inequalities. To be able to participate in remote sessions, such as for speech and language therapy, patients would need reliable internet access to enable video calls. An Ofcom survey from Jan–March 2020 found that 9% of households containing children did not have home access to a laptop, desktop PC or tablet. In the US, broadband access is considered a public health issue, and one that is being recognised more often as a social determinant of health.
While campaigning for more equitable and affordable broadband is obvious, developers need to consider how to reduce the need for high-speed internet and therefore reduce the cost of data needed by patients using their tools. What can developers do:
Create technology that can be used offline solely
If data needs to be uploaded, provision for the data to be stored on the device until the client is online
Provision for lower specification devices and lower data requirements