Connect to Health

Colorado is launching a telehealth pilot program to increase local access to health services, from Julesburg to Dolores.

In a collaborative effort between the Colorado State Library, the Office of eHealth Innovation, and the American Heart Association, 23 rural libraries will receive funding and support to implement initiatives to increase telehealth access for their communities.

Libraries could choose to implement tele-hubs – a private space within the library that patrons can reserve to connect virtually with a healthcare provider or participate in virtual wellness services. These spaces will have the equipment and internet connectivity needed to support virtual services, and patrons can get assistance with the technology from library staff. Alternatively, some libraries chose to implement “telehealth kits,” so that patrons who have adequate connectivity at home can borrow the equipment and connect with a provider in the comfort of their home. Each tele-hub and “telehealth kit” will include blood pressure cuffs and scales donated by the American Heart Association.

Colorado Library Pilot Locations

The digital divide is the gap between those who have affordable access, skills, and support to effectively engage online, and those who do not. The digital divide prevents equal participation and opportunity in all parts of life, disproportionately affecting people of color, Indigenous peoples, low-income households and individuals, individuals with disabilities, rural residents, and older adults.

Rural Divide in Colorado

Colorado’s rural and mountain communities, while a treasure, means folks may need to drive far distances for sufficient medical and mental health care services, and that the number of local providers is limited or nonexistent. Traveling a long distance to reach services comes with a host of factors, such as taking time off work, arranging childcare, finding transportation, and travel costs. These factors can make it difficult or impossible for people to obtain services like mental health care, preventative check-ups, support for managing chronic conditions, or follow-up appointments with specialists, and contributes to poorer health outcomes in our rural counties. Vulnerable populations such as the elderly or disabled have additional hurdles seeking health care.

Telehealth is one way for rural residents to connect with providers without travel barriers. However, over 213,000 households lack adequate broadband connectivity in Colorado, and rural households are more than twice as likely to lack internet at home compared to urban households due to availability, poor service, and affordability.

Rural communities stand to benefit the most from virtual services, yet, connectivity issues in rural areas make it difficult for resident to take advantage of things like telehealth, virtual education, and more. For example, telehealth use in rural Colorado is almost half that of urban areas of the state. 

Colorado’s

Digital Divide

Libraries already bring information and information technology to their communities. Acting as a hub for connection and connecting the community to health services is a natural fit. 

The Problem

  • Rural residents are more likely to have to travel far distances to access needed services. 
  • Adequate broadband connectivity is limited in rural areas, making it difficult to take advantage of virtual services.
  • People in rural communities struggle to access quality health care.
  • Health providers offer telehealth appointments, but not all patients have the broadband, equipment, or digital skills to connect to essential health care services. 

The Solution

  • Libraries are highly-trusted, well-connected institutions, invested in the well-being of their communities. Rural libraries can help expand a community’s access to telehealth services by providing:
    • Central location within rural communities.
    • Reliable, free broadband access.
    • A safe, private location to access virtual services. 
    • Staff who can help patrons use the technology needed for a virtual appointment. 

1.6 Million +

The number of times people accessed internet computers at a Colorado public library in a year.

That is more than 4,000 times per day.

2.1 Million

The number of reference questions answered by Colorado public librarians each year.

95%

The percentage of Colorado public libraries that report partnering with groups or organizations to better serve their community in the past year.