Building for impact: Innovation opportunities for Black digital health consumers

The Black community is a key consumer group in healthcare—they hold an estimated $1.6T in buying power and spend 19% more per person on inpatient care than the general population. Their influence also manifests in the digital health arena. According to Rock Health’s 2023 Consumer Adoption of Digital Health Survey, Black respondents report high rates of virtual care adoption and have higher odds of wearable ownership compared to respondents who do not identify as Black.1

Despite high levels of adoption, Black consumers have historically reported lower rates of satisfaction with their experiences of digital solutions relative to other racial groups.2 This gap reflects an untapped opportunity for digital health designers and innovators to design and scale solutions that better serve this active and growing consumer group.

In’s recent publication, “A Lens on Health Equity in Digital Health: Unlocking the Innovation Opportunity”, we explore three opportunity areas for more equitable digital health impact: facilitating adoption and trust, promoting responsible design, and scaling innovation. We identified four communities that have increasingly adopted digital health, but have often found available options aren’t quite tailored to their needs. We then applied the lens of these opportunity areas to the needs of each individual community—one of which is Black digital health consumers—to develop the action steps below for innovators designing and scaling solutions for these populations. To spur additional ideas and inspiration, we also share examples of startups currently working to address these needs.

Digital health adoption snapshot

According to Rock Health’s 2023 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey, of Black respondents:3

  • 78% have received virtual care at some point
  • 49% own or have owned a wearable device
  • 73% have searched for healthcare information online
  • 65% have searched for a care provider online

According to Rock Health’s 2023 Consumer Adoption of Digital Health Survey, Black consumers lead the way as digital health adopters—the odds of wearable ownership are 20% greater among Black respondents, as compared to non-Black respondents.1

Taking action

Prioritize Black representation, starting with your data. Relative to their makeup of the U.S. population, the Black community is underrepresented in the research, design, and development processes for new (and old) drugs, medical devices, and even consumer tech. Ensuring that Black communities are centered in clinical research and design helps not only to improve the efficacy of these assets, but increases the chances of building long-term customer loyalty and advances innovation in clinical areas that disproportionately impact Black Americans. Startups and enterprises alike have an opportunity to make sure representation starts at the most basic research levels. This is especially important as more digital devices incorporate artificial intelligence algorithms, which can encode biases based on underrepresentation in training data.

Acclinate connects pharma companies and healthcare researchers with communities of color to improve representation in clinical research. Acclinate’s educational community, NOWINCLUDED, provides Black consumers who are interested in clinical trials with educational content, in-person events, and online peer communities for specific health conditions.

Build trust as the foundation of your go-to-market strategy. Black Americans are less likely to trust the healthcare system to do what’s right for them and their communities. They may also be hesitant to believe that they can effectively engage with the healthcare system to meet their needs. Digital relationships that prioritize deep contextual understanding as part of their product design and go-to-market strategies have an opportunity to connect with Black users to build trust and long-term loyalty. Whether partnering with community groups or engaging Black innovators who share lived experiences in common with their end users, there are a multitude of approaches to building effective solutions and consumer trust.

Blackfullness is a mental health and mindfulness app made by and for Black people. Blackfullness provides culturally relevant meditation and breathing exercises as well as mood tracking and journaling tools.

Champion providers from the community. Many Black consumers are looking for healthcare solutions that offer the option to connect them to providers who look like them and understand their lived experiences. Nearly one-third of Black consumers prefer to receive care from a Black provider, and seeing a provider of the same race can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction, enhance communication, and increase adoption of preventative care. For digital health teams that employ providers, prioritizing hiring and retaining Black clinicians and care professionals is an investment in your business.

Mae provides culturally responsive pregnancy and postpartum support to expectant mothers. With an early focus on Black birthing people via weekly health tracking, educational resources, and connections to culturally congruent birth workers, doulas, care coordinators and other health experts. Mae’s solution maintains 90% consumer engagement rates.4

Tailor to Black experiences that intersect with key health innovation areas. Black Americans’ health needs and experiences vary across gender, income, ability, age, geography, and other axes of identity. For example, Black elders, Black trans individuals, and Black women have intersectional needs that are deserving of specific care products, expert care providers, and extended care offerings.

Therify is a personalized provider matching application that leverages a multi-dimensional approach to connect employees with in-network mental health providers and content. With this approach, 94% of users report a strong fit with the initial provider match, in contrast to one-dimensional matching which is associated with a 67% fit.5

Digital health innovators working to design and scale solutions for the Black community have the opportunity to access an exceptionally engaged consumer market. Investments in trust-building, user-centered design, and representation can pay dividends for Black health and well-being.


  1. After adjusting for covariates (age, gender identity, transgender identity, household income, health insurance coverage, ethnicity (Hispanic/Latina/o/x)), the odds of wearable ownership was 1.2 times as great for Black/African-American respondents compared to non-Black/African-American respondents. This effect was significant (p = .033). Source: Rock Health 2023 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey
  2. Source: Rock Health 2021 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey
  3. Analytical cohort selected based on “Black or African-American” response to Survey question, “Please specify the races you identify with.” Respondents could select more than one response.
  4. Consumer engagement data provided by Mae.
  5. Provider fit data provided by Therify.