Equitable approaches to digital health drive more powerful innovation

Centering equity in digital health innovation is a core tenet of RockHealth.org’s work.

Emerging from our work with digital health innovators, we have found that applying equitable approaches is a powerful and necessary driver of innovation that leads to better outcomes for more people. Equitable approaches include prioritizing proximate perspectives, facilitating ongoing learning, and fostering trust needed to build lasting relationships with end users and partners. Through our work, we’ve seen how such approaches, when applied in healthcare, can drive more equitable innovation.

Prioritizing proximate perspectives

The concept of proximity can include lived experience, field or technical knowledge, or even community networks. Proximity can start with leaders who bring a personal commitment to understanding the root need for an innovative solution. But it’s not just about who is at the table. When it comes to designing innovations, experience design that is person-centered leads to more equitable solutions for all. An example of this approach to design is illustrated through the curb-cut effect, amplified by leading innovators at PolicyLink. The term comes from examining the impact of sidewalk curb cuts that improved accessibility for individuals with disabilities but also eased the life of individuals pushing strollers, using grocery carts, using walkers, or rolling a suitcase. The curb-cut effect demonstrates how investment into health in a single group or issue can facilitate population-level impact. By prioritizing proximity in design, solution developers can address the universal needs of every end user to ensure that any person is well positioned to use a platform or innovation. This method of iterative design congruently develops a deeper understanding of user and consumer needs and context. Together with an expanded field of proximate leaders, these approaches begin to narrow the gap between disparities and improved outcomes in healthcare innovation.

Facilitating ongoing learning

Working from a place of curiosity and reimagination is crucial to reinventing a healthcare system that was never designed to meet the needs of historically marginalized and under-resourced populations. Reimagination is the foundation for creating solutions for issues ranging from advocating for person-centered care for neurodegenerative diseases to reclaiming the home as a space for direct care. Curiosity engenders mutual collaboration and an ongoing commitment to reflecting and learning that drives more impactful approaches and solutions.

Fostering trust to build lasting partnerships

The strongest achievements in healthcare come from crossing sectors to work in collaboration in developing innovative solutions. Opportunities for partnerships shouldn’t be seen as simply monetary transactional or quid pro quo offerings. Long-term community building can take the form of mentorship, awareness multiplication, or cooperation alliances. In communities that have been over-researched and marginalized, building trust requires entering humbly. Instead of approaching partnerships with a concrete agenda, equitable partnership could begin by exploring the nuances of community-led partnership. Taking the time to foster long-term collaboration provides the chance for solutions to deepen and widen their impact.

At RockHealth.org, we foster community and support work that advances necessary discovery, iteration, and re-development for scaling design innovation. We believe that when innovations are built and designed more equitably, the consumer base and the market opportunities for impact and revenue exponentially increase. We are always seeking out partners who can thoughtfully collaborate and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our team to implement and amplify transformative narratives and insights to support this work.

RockHealth.org is a non-profit that advances equity-centered innovation in digital health. We take action towards a more inclusive digital health ecosystem by championing equitable design and innovation, supporting underrepresented innovators, and fostering a community of bold leaders across the healthcare landscape. Learn more about our industry-leading convenings and equity-focused investment and design initiatives at rockhealth.org. To keep in touch with RockHealth.org and stay updated on events, sign up for our mailing list here or reach out at hello@rockhealth.org.