Healthcare equity meets operational efficiency
Growing up in Haiti, I've seen firsthand the suffering and disparities in healthcare access across different communities. As a doctor, I also witnessed the same themes in the U.S. and other countries.
The good news is that healthcare technology has great potential to reduce both suffering and healthcare disparities. Consider the massive shift to telemedicine during the pandemic. Video platforms allowed homebound patients to get care when they needed it. For providers, that improved operations by reducing no-shows and allowing them to more easily take on new patients who can't physically access care.
But even as you shift care online, inequities remain. Community health centers that take care of anyone in the U.S. regardless of their ability to pay often report issues with patients who have no access to broadband. Or a laptop. If the design of tech-enabled care doesn't consider the potential users and address the barriers some of them would face, inequities might actually increase. This is especially true for those who are older, have limited digital literacy, or speak a language other than the tool's primary language, or those who learn differently or can't afford these tools.
If the design of tech-enabled care doesn't consider the diversity of potential users and address the barriers some of them would face, inequities might actually increase.
One way to address these problems is to invest in healthcare entrepreneurship with an equity lens. The next generation of business and tech leaders need to make sure they include culturally-, gender-, and neuro-diverse members on their teams. They need to design with users, not just for users. Such approaches support both operational efficiency and increased reach.
To do this right, they will need to explore key questions: What if the patient is blind? How does that person access care? What if the person has to walk 20 miles to access your product or service? Think about a house painter who is paid by the hour and might lose a half a day's pay traveling to and from a medical appointment.
What if we can design a tool that addresses these issues, that doesn't require as much bandwidth as telehealth, that brings more patients and operational efficiencies into the mix? A technology like that would improve access for everyone and reduce health inequities for millions.
What if we can design a tool that addresses these issues, that doesn't require as much bandwidth as telehealth, that brings more patients and operational efficiencies into the mix?
Investors are increasingly recognizing that there's a lack of diversity in the entrepreneurs they invest in. This system perpetuates some of the inequities we see because solutions are designed without the input or leadership of those who have been excluded and marginalized. Investors must partner with those with lived experiences and commit to having portfolios with a diverse set of entrepreneurs. There is no shortage of talent.
I've been working on healthcare technology and equity for 20 years, including in my current role leading the Center of Community Health and Health Equity. We can see there's so much room for technology growth and for change in healthcare access. I'm optimistic about the impact we can all have if we design with equity as a guiding principle.