Digital Health for the Undeserved

by Dr Nick

A recent report published by Jane Sarsohn-Kahn for the California Health Foundation: Digitizing the Safety Net Health Tech Opportunities for the Undeserved offers some deep insights into reaching the population most in need of help but often left out in the discussions of the latest and greatest technology to break into the news cycle.

As pointed out low-income households have access to mobile technology with 8 out of 10 sending and receiving text messages – in fact mobile phone usage and ownership mirrors the experience in Africa where many of the communities have little choice given the paucity of existing infrastructure and have bypassed the traditional communications systems in favor of mobile networks
Adults who own a cell phone, Africa

and gave rise to a whole innovation of mobile banking that originated that pre-dated, is more flexible and is more widely used than anything developed in the west (The M-Pesa system) – servicing the unbanked people of Africa without requirements to have a smart phone nor to use an app. I’ve written about the opportunity we have of learning from our African friends in the past)
In the case of the undeserved here in the US many of these people mirror these experiences and providing easy access using simple tools is effective not just from a cost standpoint (as Healthcrowd showed $1 for mobile messaging vs $34 for paper mailing) – and that’s even before you consider the engagement/response rate we find with mobile applications and interactions…think about it, when you want to reach your children do you send them an email or text them

Textpectation

 

Take the time to read about the multiple projects that are reaping big benefits and doing so cost effectively. These are real working projects with a range of technology that has demonstrable impacts and could be applied to many more groups and environments. The extensive piece takes you on a journey from everything as simple as text messaging from Healthcrowd to the medication adherence and tracking concepts of Proteus Digital Health of digestible sensors that track your pill from manufacture to ingestion.

There are a few guiding principles to help steer you to success

  • Meet people where they are – widely varied and none are typical
  • Build Trust – under promise, over deliver; everything is fragile for this community and failure can be far more catastrophic for them than “average” users
  • Address social determinants of health – just providing a ride to get to the clinic could mean the difference between success and failure and an Uber Ride is a lot more cost effective than an ambulance required for the crisis that could have been averted
  • Consider the cost of data service – data is expensive on many plans treat it like memory used to be in the days of 640K
  • Recognize the many layers of health literacy – not just comprehension but basic literacy and even language
  • Speak in the Vernacular – and make it culturally sensitive too

As Aman Bhandari said

“The new sexy is scaling what can work”

Proven solutions that have been effective provide great opportunities for those looking to make that impact on their own area.

 

 

 


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