Morehouse School of Medicine Releases Digital Health Tools Study Report
Study findings show adoption and use of digital health tools are widespread, but health equity remains elusive.
ATLANTA – APRIL 19, 2023 – Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) today released "Leveraging Digital Health Tools to Advance Health Equity," a report that examined the adoption and use of digital health tools (DHTs) by healthcare professionals in four southeastern states. The study was funded through a three-year, $1.1 million grant awarded by the United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group, in 2019. The report found that while DHTs are being used widely, underserved populations lack access to technology, further exacerbating health inequities. Additionally, the report made a number of recommendations aimed at increasing the use of DHTs and their impact on health equity.
"The US health system continues to be a global leader for implementing innovative health technology, but access remains inequitable. Health inequities are well known but under-studied in the realm of digital health," said Dominic Mack, MD, MBA, Professor of Family Medicine and Director of the National Center for Primary Care (NCPC) at Morehouse School of Medicine. "This research is a glance into underserved communities across the Southeast and the corresponding practices that serve this population. “Leveraging Digital Health Tools to Advance Health Equity” gives us detailed evidence and suggested solutions that can bridge disparate barriers to digital health utilization."
“As an enterprise, we are committed to enabling and delivering equitable care that addresses health disparities and improves health outcomes,” says Kristi Henderson, DNP, NP-C, Chief Executive Officer, Optum Everycare, Optum Health, a UnitedHealth Group company and Chair of the Board, American Telemedicine Association. “This research illustrates the importance of developing and advancing technology to help connect people to care where and when they need it, providing a more accessible, personalized and seamless care experience. This partnership demonstrates the United Health Foundation’s and Morehouse School of Medicine’s shared commitment to ensuring every person, regardless of race, gender or location has the opportunity to live their healthiest life.”
"Health technologies like remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and digital therapeutics improve healthcare quality, accessibility, and efficiency, but their benefits are not equally distributed across all patient populations," said René Quashie, Vice President, Digital Health at the Consumer Technology Association. "This report offers a window into the economic, social, and geographic divides that can be bridged to drive the adoption of health technology at scale. The substantial equity gap in our health system reflects an urgent need for greater technology adoption. We are proud to support Morehouse School of Medicine to advance research that paves the way for a more equitable future in US health."
From October 2019 to July 2021, the Digital Health Tools Study assessed adoption and use of DHTs by more than 1,200 primary care clinicians working primarily in four Southeastern states: Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Through surveys, focus groups, and leadership roundtable discussions, the study found:
- Almost all clinicians (99.4%) had used at least one DHT in the past five years.
- Electronic health records, health information exchanges, and telemedicine had the highest utilization rates.
- Over half (52%) of primary care clinicians used telehealth for the first time during the pandemic.
- Easing workflow integration, meeting patient need, and improving patient health were the most important factors for clinicians’ DHT adoption.
- Time and cost were clinicians’ top barriers for adopting DHTs.
- Clinicians participating in quality reporting programs were more likely to use telemedicine, health information exchanges, and electronic health records than other DHTs.
The report suggested several changes to policies and practices to support and expand the use of DHTs by primary care clinicians, which would be needed to maximize the potential for DHTs to promote health equity for patients receiving services in primary care settings. These changes include: 1) prioritizing equity in health care transformation efforts; 2) improving the interoperability of digital health tools; 3) improving access to telehealth; 4) increasing accessibility to culturally and linguistically tailored, patient centered DHTs; and 5) increasing support for both patients and healthcare professionals in the use of DHTs.
In partnership with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), MSM will host a Congressional Briefing, "Advancing Health Equity and the Role of Health Technology," to discuss findings from the report, impacts on digital health equity, and policy considerations to ensure DHTs are employed to bridge current barriers to high-quality health care, improve health outcomes, and address long-standing inequities. The event will be held in person on April 27, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. ET at the CTA Innovation House, 21 D Street Southeast, Washington, DC 20003. For more information and to register for the event, please visit the event website.
For more information about Morehouse School of Medicine, please visit MSM.edu.
About Morehouse School of Medicine
Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission—the creation and advancement of health equity. Morehouse School of Medicine's faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit www.msm.edu or call 404-752-1500.
About United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, the United Health Foundation works to improve the health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, the United Health Foundation has committed more than $700 million to programs and communities around the world. To learn more, visit www.UnitedHealthFoundation.org.
Morehouse School of Medicine