Development of a Digital Healthcare Equity Framework

A framework and guide to help creators and users of healthcare solutions that involve digital technologies ensure that their solutions are equitable.

Benefits of digital healthcare technologies limited by the digital divide

The development and use of technologies that improve patient engagement, support clinical decisions, and optimize healthcare delivery continue to grow. Digital healthcare technologies can be patient-facing—like mobile health apps and patient portals—and clinician-facing—like CDS tools and risk prediction algorithms. However, a number of obstacles limit the use and benefit of these tools, including poor engagement of patients in the design of the technologies and a lack of digital literacy and broadband access— collectively known as the “digital divide.” The health benefit of solutions utilizing digital tools will remain limited unless the characteristics, needs, and capabilities of all patient groups are considered in the solution’s design and implementation.

A framework and guide to support digital healthcare equity

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University, led by Drs. Elham Hatef and Matthew Austin, is developing a framework and an accompanying guide that will support equity in designing and deploying digital healthcare solutions. After the team conducts an environmental scan of related frameworks and practices, they will draft the framework and guide with feedback and recommendations from experts in digital healthcare and health equity.

“To highlight some of the challenges of digital medicine, when you physically go to a doctor’s office, you are generally in a place where you can have a private conversation with your provider about your health concerns. With a televisit, you are in your bedroom or your living room trying to have that same conversation. You may not be in a position to share confidential health information in quite the same way.”
- Dr. Matthew Austin

Dissemination to facilitate equitable healthcare technology

The framework and guide will apply to patient- and clinician-facing solutions and be disseminated to health systems, public entities, and digital healthcare vendors. Drs. Hatef and Austin hope that the digital healthcare equity framework and guide can help organizations and vendors create and implement equitable healthcare solutions when those solutions involve digital technologies.

Principal Investigator

Funded Amount

$441,526

Research Type

Emerging