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All Things HIT

Mar 16 2012   11:57AM GMT

The multiple lives of the digital divide



Posted by: AllinHIT
EHR adoption, Specialties

I will never forget my response after reading the 1999 report authored by the National Information Administration, Falling through the net: Defining the Digital Divide. The report revealed the huge digital divide facing minority communities because of a lack of internet access, especially broadband, and the lack of funding for computers in the homes and urban schools. It was this report that motivated me to create the Webmenders brand. I decided that I will not accept letting minorities “fall through the net”,  so I created Webmenders, mending the hole on the web to prevent minorities from slipping through.

The program received computers donated by Compaq, and my childhood friend still works there (now HP), Andy Wilkerson. The program trained minority youths on the interworkings of the Internet, web development, and online education resources. The final project was a website called “seeing the community through the eyes of youth”, containing pictures and profiles of community places, people, and things. The program was a top 25 finalist among thousands of entries with the AOL foundations community fund. I tried to do my part in addressing this divide, and much kudo’s to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for doing their part putting computers in classrooms across America. Although minorities are still falling through the net, much progress has been accomplished. However, once again, I am reminded that the digital divide lives on, and has taken another life form.

In the March 2012 edition of Health Affairs, there was an article on the new life of the digital divide in those providers that do not qualify for meaningful use, and hence are not adopting EHR technologies at the pace of those who do qualify. Victims of this digital divide? Specialties, long term care facilities, acute care hospitals, inpatient providers, rehab facilities and psychiatric hospitals are all not Eligible Providers (EPs) qualifying for meaningful use incentives dollars. This digital divide not only affects minorities, but also affects the whole healthcare delivery system, which all of us belong. So here I am, once again, thinking about solutions for this digital divide.

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