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Four ways to improve digital health equity

Over the previous few years, we have now seen a rise in tech-based approaches to bettering maternal outcomes and the birthing journey. While most ladies nonetheless have in-person visits to test the progress of their being pregnant, ship or check-in following supply, know-how can increase the attain of health care providers.

Digital options, together with distant affected person monitoring, cell health apps, and telehealth visits can facilitate steady communication between anticipating and new mothers and their care groups. They can also present a way of consolation and safety, which is far wanted throughout this era of life.

As hospitals and health programs enhance their use of know-how, it’s vital to do not forget that not all sufferers have entry to digital options. There are many barriers to access – together with lack of entry to broadband or web at speeds excessive sufficient to assist these options. According to Federal Communications Commission data, 21 million Americans don’t have entry to broadband web; 42 million can’t afford to buy it. In addition, many people nonetheless don’t personal smartphones. The Pew Research Center stories that 14% of people dwelling in rural areas personal a cellphone however not a smartphone.

Even with entry to know-how, digital literacy – the power to use, course of and perceive know-how – is usually a barrier to entry. For instance, people might face language or cultural boundaries wanted to have interaction with digital options.

At Becker’s Healthcare Conference, I had the chance to focus on digital options and the work that have to be achieved to improve digital health equity, with two health care leaders – Alisahah Jackson, M.D., CommonSpirit Health’s system vp of inhabitants health innovation and coverage and Christina Yarrington, M.D., director of labor and supply and the division director for maternal fetal medication at Boston Medical Center.

During that dialog, every shared how their hospitals are utilizing digital options to improve perinatal outcomes. They additionally shared how they choose, implement and consider these options to be sure that all of their sufferers have entry to them.

Here are some ways Jackson and Yarrington recommended we will improve digital health equity and be sure that all mothers and their households have entry to these digital options:

  1. Apply a health equity lens and be deliberately inclusive. Advancing health equity isn’t one thing you may simply test off in your test listing. It is a dedication health care organizations and their tech companions should embed in all their strategic efforts. Before investing in a digital resolution, preliminary conversations with digital resolution distributors have to be considered by way of a health equity lens. “We evaluate solutions for accessibility and health literacy levels, and whether their data collection capability includes the ability to stratify data by race, ethnicity, language and gender,” shared Jackson.
  2. Leverage extra easy and value efficient approaches, primarily based in your served group. One approach to improve entry is to present the know-how instantly to sufferers. For instance, Boston Medical Center partnered with Rimidi to present blood strain cuffs and a QR code to at-risk postpartum mothers to monitor their hypertension remotely, day by day for six weeks. Instructions on utilizing the cuff and submitting blood strain scores to the online portal are supplied in three languages. However, Yarrington famous, “We can give patients the device but we also need to anticipate any barriers in using it. Smartphone users may not have a data plan to support video conferencing or struggle with consistent access to wi-fi to communicate with their providers.” To tackle this concern, BMC chosen Rimidi as a result of it runs on native mobile community, and its internet portal is staffed by high-risk OB nurses to present triage providers and extra assist. BMC’s program is credited with a major lower in readmission charges for high-risk postpartum mothers with hypertension.

    Additionally, having a cellphone doesn’t imply you may have entry to digital platforms. Texting, a standard service out there in all telephones now, can turn into a price efficient, bi-directional, multi-lingual approach to attain and talk with sufferers. CommonSpirit makes use of Get Well’s Docent digital affected person navigation resolution as a result of it supplies a text-based platform to join moms and their households to a “docent” that provides affected person navigation providers all through and following being pregnant.

  3. Engage numerous sufferers to improve digital health literacy and individualize care. Hospitals can accomplice with community-based organizations, ladies of their group, and numerous voices of underrepresented sufferers, communities and suppliers to assess whether or not these digital options are simply accessible and comprehensible by all sorts of sufferers and communities. For instance, health care organizations and their tech companions can join with mothers with low health literacy to perceive their communication preferences, and tailor providers to meet their wants and construct belief.
  4. Track affected person engagement with the digital instruments to measure success and assess scability. Measuring how nicely sufferers are responding and fascinating with a digital resolution is a crucial step in guaranteeing entry and scaling it throughout a bigger footprint. In 2021, Boston Medical Center analyzed information for the primary 1,000 folks enrolled in its program and located 98.7% submitted at the least one blood strain measurement, and obtain greater than 17 distinctive measurements from enrolled sufferers day by day. At CommonSpirit, engagement charges for its multi-pronged providers with the Docent Health platform are at 65% throughout all ethnicities, and the very best at 73% in Hispanic communities. Jackson attributed this excessive utilization to its capability to supply providers within the language and dialect most well-liked and spoken by sufferers.

As hospital and health programs discover tech-based providers, it should stay vital to meet sufferers and people not solely the place they’re, however the place they need to be. This will assist guarantee every particular person has an equal alternative to entry and make the most of digital options. To study extra about different digital options in perinatal care, pay attention to AHA’s Seven in Seven: Digital Solutions for Perinatal Care podcast sequence.

Are you investing in digital options to improve maternal digital health equity? Email Aisha Syeda at and share your journey.

Priya Bathija, J.D., MHSA, serves as AHA’s vp of strategic initiatives.

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