For patients who have limited access to digital technology, signing on to their patient record can be a challenge – if not altogether impossible.
“Not everyone has a cellphone – or even access to the internet,” explains Dr. Ryan Jelinek, Medical Director for Telehealth and Patient Access at Hennepin Healthcare, who created the Digital Equity Xpert program where patients are connected with digital navigators to help train and educate them about online tools to better access their healthcare resources – most importantly, their electronic health records.
“Digital literacy to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities is a priority within our healthcare system. Just getting to that place often identifies inequities like lack of device access, or poor broadband or cellular connectivity. Regardless of access to technology, there may be limited digital literacy, that impedes a patient’s ability to use these tools. Our goal is to have patients feel comfortable in accessing the resources they need and feel included in their care.”
More than 800 patients have been helped by the DEX program since it began in March 2022 to address the gaps in digital access by providing at-the-elbow support to patients who may need extra assistance. While much of the support provided is related to healthcare tools like the patient’s electronic health record, the scope of support extends far beyond that to things like helping set up an email address or referring them to county programs that may be able to assist with hardware and broadband solutions at little or no cost.
How does it work?
Like the Talent Garden and other community-focused initiatives at Hennepin Healthcare, the Digital Equity Xperts program has a dual focus on diversity and equity for both the Hennepin Healthcare team and more broadly in their communities.
Through a partnership with Teen HOPE, Hennepin Healthcare provides training and workplace opportunities to interns in the DEX program to fast-track them to careers in healthcare. Through these internships, they gain experience working within a healthcare setting toward their career goals, meeting patients at the bedside or at clinic appointments to provide education.
“It’s a win-win program for everyone,” said Dr. Jelinek. “The patients are more involved in their healthcare experience and choices, the DEX intern gains experience toward their career goals, and Hennepin Healthcare benefits from having a more involved patient, and potentially another colleague considering a rewarding healthcare career.”
Hennepin Healthcare is a nationally recognized system of care that includes HCMC, a Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota. The comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital includes a 484-bed acute care hospital as well as primary care and specialty clinics located in downtown Minneapolis its surrounding communities.