Mobile tech to end health disparities

The growing use of technology presents healthcare organizations with the opportunity to reduce healthcare disparities by helping minorities manage their health, physician Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation, wrote this week in a Huffington Post blog post.

Given that cell phone owners who are Latino, African American or ages 18 to 49 are more likely than other groups to obtain health information from their smartphones, the Aetna Foundation is looking to use mobile technology to meet those populations where they are.

"We believe that digital health technology can serve as a powerful equalizer for improving health education and access to care among minority and low-income communities by reaching people where they are spending time--at school, at church, in their neighborhoods and on-the-go with real-time solutions that easily fit into their daily lives," Graham said last week in an announcement of $1.2 million grants to support mobile health among vulnerable and minority groups.

To integrate mobile healthcare solutions into the daily lives of underserved populations, the Aetna Foundation, for example, is supporting a two-way text faith-based messaging campaign targeting 19- to 55-year-old African American women. It's managed by local health ministers.

"Three different communities will kick-start healthier lifestyles, increase access and improve overall health and wellness with actionable exercise, wellness, disease prevention and lifestyle change-related messaging tailored to both their culture and individual needs," Graham wrote.

In addition to minority populations, Aetna has been putting its mHealth focus on the chronically ill, noting that 84 percent of all healthcare costs are associated with people who have chronic conditions. Such efforts arose out of CEO Mark Bertolini's passion in harnessing technology to improve the healthcare experience, Martha Wofford, vice president of Aetna and head of their CarePass platform, told FierceHealthPayer in a January interview.

Similarly, Humana has been developing innovative technologies and data analytics to identify gaps in care. "We use the technology to deliver those insights back to the provider so the provider is better positioned to take action with the patient," Brian LeClaire, Humana's senior vice president and chief services and information officer, told FierceHealthPayer in December.

For more:
- here's the blog post
- read the announcement