Technology and Social Determinants

Resources To Use: to an external site.

Benda, N. C., Veinot, T. C., Sieck, C. J., & Ancker, J. S. (2020). Broadband internet access is a social determinant of health!Links to an external site.. American Journal of Public Health, 110(8), 1123-1125.

To Prepare:

  • Reflect on the concept of social determinants of health as presented in the resources.
  • Contemplate whether digital inclusion or broad band access should be added to the 5 key areas of social determinants of health.
  • Using the optional outside resources or other peer reviewed journal articles, consider how electronic health records, mobile health, patient portals, or telemedicine can impact and be impacted by the social determinants of health.

Technology and Social Determinants

The concept of social determinants of health recognizes that various non-medical factors can significantly influence an individual’s overall health and well-being. These determinants include socioeconomic status, education, employment, social support networks, access to healthcare, and the physical environment. The resources provided offer insights into how digital inclusion and broadband access can be considered as important components of the social determinants of health. Let’s explore these ideas and consider the impact of electronic health records (EHRs), mobile health, patient portals, and telemedicine on these determinants:

  1. Digital Inclusion and Broadband Access as Social Determinants of Health:
    • The resource by Benda et al. (2020) argues that broadband internet access should be recognized as a social determinant of health. This perspective highlights the importance of digital inclusion in addressing health disparities. Limited access to the internet can hinder individuals’ abilities to access health information, engage in telehealth services, and use patient portals for managing their healthcare. Lack of digital inclusion can exacerbate existing health disparities and limit access to crucial health resources.
  2. Impact of Electronic Health Records (EHRs):
    • Electronic Health Records play a crucial role in healthcare by improving data accessibility, sharing, and patient engagement. EHRs can be used to document social determinants of health, such as housing conditions, employment status, and access to transportation. This data can inform healthcare providers about the social context of patients’ lives, enabling more personalized care and interventions.
  3. Mobile Health (mHealth):
    • The study by Ye and Ma (2021) explores the relationship between mobile health and social determinants of health. Mobile health apps and technologies can help bridge the digital divide by providing health information and interventions to underserved populations. However, their effectiveness depends on individuals’ access to smartphones and reliable mobile networks, which are themselves social determinants of health.
  4. Patient Portals:
    • Singh et al. (2022) discuss the use of outpatient portals in prenatal care. Patient portals can empower individuals to take control of their health by providing access to their medical records, appointment scheduling, and communication with healthcare providers. However, disparities in portal use may exist based on factors such as race and socioeconomic status, which are key social determinants of health.
  5. Telemedicine:
    • The resource by Romain et al. (2022) explores the effect of social determinants of health on telemedicine access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine has the potential to overcome barriers related to transportation and physical location, making healthcare more accessible. However, it relies on internet access, digital literacy, and access to necessary devices, which are also influenced by social determinants of health.

In summary, digital inclusion and broadband access should indeed be considered as essential components of the social determinants of health, as they intersect with various aspects of healthcare and can either exacerbate or mitigate health disparities. Electronic health records, mobile health, patient portals, and telemedicine are valuable tools in healthcare, but their impact is closely intertwined with the social determinants of health, and disparities may persist if these factors are not addressed comprehensively. To promote health equity, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the interplay between technology, social determinants, and healthcare access.

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