American Heart Association brings Health “Techuity” for all to SXSW

Apr 1, 2019
American Heart Association brings Health “Techuity” for all to SXSW

American Heart Association brings Health “Techuity” for all to SXSW

From the desk of volunteer medical expert Ann Marie Navar, M.D. PhD

 

Advances in mobile technology have transformed many aspects of our day-to-day lives while disrupting entire industries – from retail to transportation. While the healthcare industry has been slightly slower to adopt new technologies, recent moves by household names like Google, Apple, Samsung, Amazon, and other large technology companies into health have created major hype around the potential for technology to transform healthcare. Meanwhile, improvements in wearable devices and increasing use of smartphones have led to a proliferation of companies seeking to use mobile and wearable technology to solve health challenges.

Just as I can use technology to order my groceries, book my next vacation, or read reviews of the newest restaurant in town, I can now download my entire personal health record, message my provider to obtain a medication refill, get a second opinion via a video-consult, and track my blood pressure and sleep patterns on my iPhone. And this is just the beginning.

On the flipside, the promises of technology, unfortunately, may not be distributed equally. Despite increasing use of smartphones and high-speed internet availability worldwide, disparities still exist. Where you live, how much money you make, and your educational status all impact the likelihood that you will own a phone, tablet, or internet-connected device required to take advantage of the latest innovations in healthcare. As a result, the potential improvements in health offered through Health Tech may worsen pre-existing disparities.

Recently at SXSW, the American Heart Association’s Center for Health Technology & Innovation had the chance to team up with the technology industry and community health leaders to begin building its Health “Techuity” initiative, and I had the exciting opportunity to moderate a panel discussion there on the topic. Health Techuity is a new approach that leverages the power of technology to address the problem of health equity by decreasing gaps in care with scalable solutions. Technology truly has the power to positively impact people’s health, but it is not always geared to the audience that could benefit from it most. Many technological advances are not designed with differences in cultural, geographic or socio-economic factors in mind. Furthermore, many of the under-resourced and vulnerable populations truly need these solutions, but don’t have access to them. Nevertheless, the potential need for technology-enabled solutions to address health disparities remains enormous, and should be a growth area for years to come.

Looking to the future, the Association hopes to use its Health Techuity initiative to ensure that health disparities are narrowed, not widened, through the promises of innovation in health care.

To learn more and get involved, contact chti@heart.org.