Bridging the Digital DivideDoctor visits, therapy sessions and more have gone digital in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and there are signs that clinics and patients will continue to embrace remote healthcare even after the pandemic subsides. As a result, nonprofits are being forced to meet yet another challenge in achieving healthcare equity in their low-income and rural communities.

A New Normal in Healthcare Visits

When restaurants, libraries and gyms temporarily closed their doors to slow the spread of the coronavirus, so did most doctors’ offices, mental health clinics and group therapy practices. Workouts moved outdoors, restaurants switched to takeout, and clinicians switched to remote care and virtual health platforms. Contrary to popular belief, we can live without a sit-down dinner at the corner restaurant. What we as a global population can’t live without is fair and equitable access to healthcare.

Clinics are using digital communications tools like private portals and Zoom to replace in-person office visits and alleviate patient safety concerns. But that doesn’t work for everyone: when getting care means going online, any household without easy access to high-speed internet is at risk of being left out.

  • Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, almost half of broadband-connected households have received virtual health and wellness services. In many instances, we’ve had little choice. Most non-emergency physical and mental health services replaced in-person visits with remote or “virtual” visits to keep us safe.
  • Teletherapy gained acceptance and could prove especially beneficial for hard-to-reach areas of the country. In June of 2020, a survey revealed that 75% of psychologists had stopped seeing patients in person entirely, opting to provide mental health services remotely instead.
  • Even when clinics start offering more in-person office visits again, many patients choose to schedule remotely for convenience and safety reasons. In September of 2020, an East-coast health system told Stat News they were getting about 4,000 remote visits a day. Before the pandemic they averaged about 250.
  • Telehealth is expected to continue to play a key role in connected care and chronic disease management. Legislation is in the works at the state and federal levels to protect virtual healthcare insurance coverage after the pandemic.

But what about the millions of people who don’t have access to high-speed Internet in their homes? Nonprofit groups who work with senior citizens, vulnerable adults, and low-income students and families have yet another hurdle to overcome in keeping their community members connected to care services.

Telehealth Access for Low-Income Households

Whether providing behavioral services, mobile medical care, or hosting support groups for care givers, many nonprofits are taking advantage of low-cost mobile internet from Mobile Citizen to deliver services that used to be in-person only.  

Mobile Citizen is a project of Voqal, a nationally recognized social equity nonprofit. In an effort to bridge the digital divide, Mobile Citizen offers affordable 4G mobile Internet and devices, with unlimited data plans starting at just $10 per month, exclusively to nonprofit organizations. More secure than public Wi-Fi access points, Mobile Citizen Wi-Fi hotspot devices provide encryption capabilities designed to protect information or data.

Mobile Internet Helps Bridge the Gap

Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices are popular with nonprofits not just because of the technology’s affordability, but because of its flexibility. Hotspots can provide reliable connections anywhere there’s coverage on the network. This means a care provider can get Wi-Fi access when they’re out in the field, or a family can use it to access health and behavioral services online from home.

When it comes to the heightened privacy needs associated with health information, we can’t overlook the value of security. Regardless of personal circumstances, no one should have to rely on public Wi-Fi to share personal health information with doctors and therapists.

At a time when health and mental wellness seem to be at their most vulnerable, the need for digital equity—and justice in healthcare—is more important than ever. That’s why Mobile Citizen offers low-cost mobile internet devices with unlimited data plans exclusively to nonprofit organizations, schools, and social welfare agencies nationwide. To get started, please contact our experts in the Mobile Citizen Customer Service Center at 877-216-9603.

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