Dr Ejim Mark: Digital Health Runs the Risk of Exacerbating Disparities

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Digital health can improve care around the world, but if used poorly could exacerbate existing disparities, said Ejim E. Mark, MD, MPH, MBA, CEO and founder of Access Healthcare Foundation.

How have you seen digital health improve care around the world?
A lot of people have a lot of access to health information and in developed countries you have more informed patients. The good thing is in developing countries, or resource-poor countries, you’re finding that even patients that don’t have access to doctors are able to search on the internet and get answers to basic questions around their health.

Is digital health helping to close disparity gaps, or can it exacerbate them?
It can exacerbate the gap if used poorly. But, it’s important for you to know your audience. Because when you look at individuals that have disposable income this digital health helps a lot. For example, the Amazon Echo can be a source for people who are actually finding basic questions around health. There’s a kids’ version right now where you can ask Amazon Echo or Alexa what the dose for your Tylenol, for example can be.

But, when you look at the other part of it, where you look at individuals that don’t have a lot of disposable income, there’s all this amazing digital data or technology out there that they don’t have access to. And people assume that they might have it because they have a cell phone or a mobile phone and that gap keeps increasing not just because of the digital divide but the resources as well.
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