Leveraging connectivity to mitigate health disparities and barriers

Leveraging connectivity to mitigate health disparities.

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Dr. Christine Gall, Head of Healthcare Marketing, T-Mobile for Business

Health disparities are defined by the CDC as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.”¹

Facts and figures

What are health disparities?

Health disparities can be caused by a range of factors, including poverty, environment, inadequate access to care, behaviors, and educational inequalities.

Examples of health disparities in the U.S. include:

  • Hispanic and Latino, and non-Hispanic Black individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 from March 2020 through June 2021 at a rate 2.8 times greater than non-Hispanic White people, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).²

  • In July 2021, American Indian/Alaska Native people had 2.8 times higher death rates than White people from COVID-19.

  • According to the GAO, in 2018, Black people suffered diabetes age-adjusted mortality rates of 49.7 deaths per 100,000 compared to 40 per 100,000 for American Indian/Alaska natives and Whites (24.8/100,000).


Access to healthcare

Telehealth and health disparities.

In 2021, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) organized the CEO’s Advisory Group on Using Telehealth to Eliminate Disparities and Inequities. It has a goal of advancing a framework and roadmap for addressing telehealth disparities.
As the group noted, "Health disparities are not simply differences in health outcomes. They represent significant gaps in what evidence-based tools and resources can be accessed by whom and when."³
The framework they developed consists of a pyramid, with connectivity at the top, followed by:
  • Affordability

  • Health literacy and digital literacy

  • Structural competence
  • Inclusiveness
  • History, culture, trust, and structural anti-racism

The ATA stated, “Starting at the top of the framework, connectivity is the means for individuals to access otherwise un- or less-available services through digital modalities. Connectivity necessarily includes all facets of digital interactions for individuals: access to a device, service, and sufficient connectivity speed.”

The digital divide

Efforts to improve connectivity.

Studies are increasingly building evidence that one of the barriers to healthcare is the lack of access to the internet—the digital divide in healthcare—has negative effects on an individual's health. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Connect2HealthFCC Task Force found that "one promising solution may lie in a paradigm shift in recognizing that broadband plays a more direct and consequential role as a social determinant of health, if not as a 'super' determinant of health."⁴

The Advancing Broad Connectivity as a Social Determinant of Health Initiative is working to establish the foundation for broadband connectivity as a recognized social determinant of the health domain.

Its goals are to inform current and future FCC policies and programs, support government-wide interest in leveraging broadband to improve population health and health equity, push collaborative projects with public and private stakeholders, encourage more research in the area, and "foster competitive innovation in the health IT sector related to the construct of broadband as a social determinant of health."

The Biden Administration's Affordable Connectivity Program,⁵ part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, provides households up to $30 per month for high-speed internet services and a one-time $100 discount on devices.

But broadband isn't the only factor in reducing healthcare disparities. A 2022 panel at MedCity INVEST in Chicago⁶ concluded that access to an affordable mobile device or home internet are additional factors for digital equity in healthcare. Offline solutions can also address health inequities, such as the use of non-medical facilities like libraries to offer residents access to telehealth services.

Connectivity benefits

Connectivity can have a significant return on investment.

Improved connectivity won't solve all the problems causing health inequity. And the ROI in digital connectivity for healthcare can be difficult to determine. Novant Health, based in Winston-Salem, NC, used six factors to calculate⁷ its ROI, and after investing in several digital technologies, reported:
  • Improved patient experiences—90% patient satisfaction score

  • Personalization that enhanced patients' interactions

  • Improved collections—13% overall collections lift, equivalent to $30 million annualized
  • Increased engagement that led to increased collections
  • Cash acceleration—a 43% drop-in days-to-collect
  • Digital engagement, which included a 94% lift in digital payments, 87% of collections completely self-serviced, and bolstered patient self-service capabilities and decreased cost-to-collect


Improved connectivity can have far-reaching implications by improving access to healthcare treatments via telemedicine, better health education access and quality, and strengthening social connections and community safety. All with a significant ROI based on a wide range of quality metrics.

For more insights focusing on the benefits of digital connectivity and health equity in healthcare from Dr. Christine Gall, please visit T-Mobile for Business – Healthcare.

About the author:

Dr. Christine Gall.

Dr. Christine Gall, Head of Healthcare Marketing

Dr. Gall has been a healthcare leader for over 30 years. As a nurse, she has practiced in inpatient, outpatient, and homecare settings, allowing unique insights into the continuum of care. Dr. Gall has designed and implemented multiple clinical programs aimed at addressing gaps in services and care for underserved patients.

Prior to joining T-Mobile, Dr. Gall consulted with local government to support their pandemic emergency response. In her role at T-Mobile, Dr. Gall leads the product marketing strategy for healthcare, collaborating with healthcare leaders and clinicians to create telehealth and mobility solutions that address the greatest challenges of the day. She believes that T-Mobile's powerful 5G network is key to addressing health disparities and barriers to access that impact population health.

Dr. Gall's academic credentials include a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Master of Science Degree in Healthcare Management from the Lubar School of Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Doctorate Degree in Public Health Leadership from the University of Illinois Chicago. Her Dissertation, funded by the State of Ohio, was on the topic of Mass Casualty Pandemics. Dr. Gall is a Six Sigma Green Belt and has a Certification in Business Analytics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.


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