Connected Healthcare Consumption Starts with Equal Access

Posted on August 2, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

It’s that time of year again – back to school. My oldest daughter’s first day went smoothly. She came home talking of magic Play-Doh, songs about alligators in elevators, and imbibing “pink” milk, which I’m surprised is even an option in the lunch line. I guess there’s just no getting around these temptations, or 1st grade peer pressure. That being said, I think I’ll pack her lunch tomorrow.

The novelty of my daughter eating a hot lunch at school for the first time reminds me that healthy eating habits can and should start at a young age. And I think the same can be said of healthy technology habits. I think it’s no secret that extremely young children are pretty good at using a variety of Apple devices, and so I wonder how we can combine these two efforts to help children learn how to make good healthcare choices that will continue to benefit them throughout their lives. Perhaps in the near future we could see these kids regularly accessing a personal health record, securely emailing their doctor or routinely using telemedicine services – and having it be no big deal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here. I should add that my daughter is at a new school, one that seems to have more technology resources than her last. How then we do we ensure that the difference in resources doesn’t prevent a divide from opening up, enabling one group of kids to do more with more, while their counterparts have to do less with less?

I’ve come across several news items recently that tie into this very question. According to Open Colleges, which produced the awesome infographic below, 91 percent of teachers in the U.S. have access to computers in their classrooms, 81 percent believe tablets enrich classroom learning, and one in five students have used a mobile app to organize coursework. On top of that, the company’s research found that teachers that integrated digital games into lessons increased average test scores by 91.5 percent compared to non-digital games. I highly advise checking out the infographic at its intended size for more interesting tidbits.

While these statistics are all well and good, how can students in underprivileged communities continue to keep up with technology at home? I came across a blurb in one of my daughter’s school e-newsletters about Internet Essentials, a Comcast program that offers qualifying families (typically those who students who qualify for free or reduced school lunches) Internet service for $10 a month. The program also offers qualifying customers $150 computers, and Internet training. The screenshot below gives you an idea of additional resources provided.

To me, it’s this kind of basic access to reliable Internet, training and resources that will ultimately help this country transition its healthcare system. I think the more educated we are about how technology can help us lead healthier lives, the more accountable we’ll make the entire system – from ourselves as patients to our providers, insurance carriers and ultimately our government.

My daughter might say that day will come when alligators DO ride elevators, but I prefer to remain optimistic and hope that it will at least occur in her lifetime.