Access to computers, devices and broadband is barrier to some in tribal areas – so phone use is taking over

The Circle: Native American News and Arts writes on the limited reach of telehealth – especially for elders and those without broadband…

A quick survey with Native tribes and urban Native American groups in Minnesota shows the divide is probably most acute with elders not technologically savvy to use telemedicine opportunities to confer with doctors or others.

People needing medical attention not related to COVID-19 may need a computer to learn how to use their telephones to confer with medical professionals through telephones and various smartphone devices using Zoom and other visual applications.

One solution has been to open up use of the telephone…

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), the state’s point department for administering the state’s Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP), and the Indian Health Board in Minneapolis have helpful resources for turning to telemedicine conferences as a stopgap measure while taking precautions against exposure to the virus.

Again, that information is not easily reached by elderly who do not have computers and Internet service, by the homeless, by people in temporary housing with friends or relatives, and others the Philly writers describe as on the downside of the digital divide.

“Expanding telemedicine coverage and allowing many services to be delivered via telephone have been essential steps to accommodate social distancing and isolation necessary during this public health emergency,” DHS said in a prepared statement for The Circle.

“This includes assessments and services provided to enrollees (in Minnesota state programs) who are elderly and disabled.”

To help medical providers make telemedicine more available to state program enrollees who may not have technology devices or reliable broadband service, DHS expanded providers’ use of telephone calls when doing so was considered safe and effective.

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