You’ve heard of food-as-medicine and exercise-as-medicine.
Now we see the emergence of telecomms-as-medicine — or more specifically, a driver of health, access, and empowerment.
Elevance Health, the health plan organization serving 117 million members, launched a program to channel mobile phones and data plans into the hands of some Medicaid plan enrollees, explained in the organization’s press release on the program.
To implement this program and get connectivity into consumers’ hands and homes, Elevance Health is collaborating with several telecomms companies including Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, and T-Mobile. Funding is supported by the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
At CES 2024, Gail Boudreaux, CEO of Elevance Health, was featured as a keynote speaker in conversation with Peter Lee Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research who is deeply involved in the Microsoft’s health care business. In their dialogue, Boudreaux discussed Elevance Health’s “whole-health approach….about simplifying healthcare and building trust with customers. Digitally enabled healthcare means building digital technologies into the fabric of our ecosystem to improve outcomes and enhance efficiency in day-to-day health and wellness.”
Exhibiting this chart of data from the Pew Research Group, a blog post on the company’s website discusses Elevance Health’s efforts to close the digital health equity divide including championing broadband and device access, affordability, and digital literacy as a health-related social need, and supporting initiatives that embed access and infrastructure and affordability, among other tactics to bolster connectivity for all people.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: In an essay I wrote for The Huffington Post back in July 2016, I asserted that broadband connectivity was a social determinant of health.
Connectivity as a basic human need was brought into harsh light in the COVID-19 pandemic as people without connections couldn’t work from home, go to school from home, or fully connect with loved ones.
This month, a paper on the digital determinants of health was published in PLOS Digital Health. The green cycle diagram comes from the report, detailing various facets of the DDoH: among them, digital literacy, digital accessibility, digital affordability, and technology personalization.
In our preliminary look, the Elevance Health program appears to address these elements in terms of providing a useful on-ramp to the health plan’s services covered by Medicaid and serving up relevant information accessibly. If well-designed and conceived, such user-centered principles should bolster use, stickiness, loyalty and, the intention to bolster health outcomes and members’ and families’ well-being.