Too often, tools aimed at solving a health crisis don’t appear to center the needs of those most affected by that crisis.
“You can develop the most innovative, AI-based type of solution, rooted in some type of digital platform,” said Dr. Azizi Seixas during a HIMSS21 Global Conference Digital session on Wednesday.
But if people can’t use that software, he continued, “that particular innovation is for nought.”
Seixas joined Frost and Sullivan Partner Reenita Das and Parity Health Information and Technology Founder and Chief Innovator Iris Frye to discuss what equitable innovation could look like, and what steps should be taken in order to make healthcare available to all.
Part of the issue with the current tech landscape, the panelists say, is that the people making the decisions are not representative of everyone who could benefit from innovation.
“Let’s be realistic: Healthcare was a system that was … built by white men, and run, so far, by white men,” said Das. “That has changed in the last ten years, but still, we are not being represented in the right ways.”
She pointed out that a scant percentage of funding, for example, goes toward addressing women’s health programs, and that women are not proportionally studied in clinical trials.
Seixas said it goes beyond who sits in the C-suite: It’s vital to co-create research agendas and tools with people in the community.
“With that co-design, we can have a form of empathy,” he said.
“When you co-create [a tool], the community will tell you the design needs to be a certain way, that the cost needs to be a certain way … and the dissemination and implementation need to be a certain way,” he said.
So what are the hurdles to widespread investment in equitable innovation?
Part of the problem is a barrier to entry faced by progressive organizations, said Seixas. In his view, more innovative, younger companies sometimes aren’t able to embed into the healthcare system.
But another issue is where the money is coming from, said Das: Many venture capitalists may not understand the value or growth opportunity for products targeting subsets of the population.
“That change in mindset is slowly starting to happen, but it takes some time,” she said.
Seixas said companies interested in designing population-wide tools don’t always have to rely wholly on VCs.
“If you can get your services, or your solution, or your digital therapeutic reimbursable, then that shows a significant revenue stream,” he pointed out.
Getting health systems or governmental agencies onboard can also increase uptake and demonstrate value, he adds.
Looking forward, we must democratize innovation and revenue streams in order to democratize healthcare, said Seixas.
“We need to start building beyond the four walls of the hospital,” added Das. “We need to bring healthcare into the community.”
HIMSS21 Digital Coverage
Inside look at HIMSS21 Digital programming, including hours of on-demand content highlighting healthcare technology, innovation and education.