We often cover telehealth as a much-needed way to bring healthcare to people living in rural communities. But telehealth services can be just as vital for underserved urban communities. And a new partnership between Mount Sinai Health System and the New York Public Library helps address the needs of these urban dwellers. Through this collaborative effort, New Yorkers can have virtual visits with healthcare providers, refill prescriptions, and access their medical histories.

Called Take Charge with MyChart, the program offers free classes in which participants learn how to find a new doctor, access lab and test results, medical records, and more using the MyMountSinai online portal. Users can also send messages to physicians, navigate local hospitals, and pay medical bills using Google Pay or Apple Pay via the platform. With the connected MyMountSinai app, users can also upload health and fitness data. This includes data from the Apple Healthkit app, which collates data from a range of sources such as step-counting, weight-tracking, and health-challenge apps.

People who enroll in the Take Charge with MyChart program can take a two-hour in-person course at one of three New York City libraries. Participants in the MyChart Chromebook borrowing program can check out a device and use telehealth services whenever and wherever they want. Mount Sinai Health System executive Dr. Bruce Darrow says, “It’s become clear that our commitment to our patients cannot stop at the doors of our buildings. This program helps to address a digital divide in our community.”

The digital divide Dr. Darrow speaks of has real-world consequences. Access to the Internet is increasingly a social determinant of health (SDoH), a non-medical factor that impacts health outcomes. Research from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that “there is increasing evidence demonstrating a strong relationship between broadband access, Internet adoption, and health outcomes.” For example, FCC data shows that “counties in any [20% group] of broadband access have on average 9.6% lower diabetes prevalence than those counties in the next lower [20% group] of [broadband] access.”