Lower-income Americans getting 'digital health,' too

Story highlights

  • An effort is aimed at using technologies to improve the health of Americans on the margins
  • Advocates say lower-income people are more likely to have chronic illnesses that are expensive to treat

When we hear the phrase "digital health," we might think about our Fitbit, the healthy eating app on our smartphone, or maybe a new way to email our doctor.

But Fitbits aren't particularly useful if you're homeless, and the nutrition app won't mean much to someone who struggles to pay for groceries. Same for emailing your doctor if you don't have a doctor or reliable internet access.
    "There is a disconnect between the problems of those who need the most help and the tech solutions they are being offered," said Veenu Aulakh, executive director of the Center for Care Innovations, an Oakland-based nonprofit that works to improve health care for underserved patients.
      At most digital health "pitchfests," it's pretty much white millennials hawking their technology to potential investors.
      "It's about the shiny new object that really is targeted at solving problems for wealthy individuals, the 'quantified-self' people who already track their health," Aulakh said. "Yet ... What if we could harness the energy of the larger innovation sector for some of these really critical issues facing vulnerable populations in this country?"