Expanding digital health’s reach and impact: A new RockHealth.org initiative on assessing the state of health equity innovation

Over the last decade, digital health’s reach and influence have risen exponentially—but opportunities remain to better deliver on the full potential to equitably reach all individuals regardless of age, race, geography, and ability. When examining who and what has historically been funded, the field’s ongoing activity highlights that digital health innovations are not presently positioned to impact the lives of all.

Simply put, the free market is missing the opportunity to address the persistent challenges faced by underserved and underrepresented digital health consumers (e.g., communities of color, rural communities, adolescents, Medicaid recipients, aging populations, caregivers, etc.) and the innovators that are developing solutions for them. If these trends persist, there is an outsized possibility that digital health innovations will expand and exacerbate systemic health inequities.

Noting the challenges that exist for health equity-focused digital health innovations to grow, reach, and scale their operations and the outsized opportunities for these solutions to impact the lives of persistently underserved populations, the RockHealth.org team is excited to announce the launch of a groundbreaking project, “Assessing the State of Health Equity Innovation in Digital Health”.

In collaboration with various field leaders—including entrepreneurs, investors, enterprise leads, ecosystem builders, and philanthropic funders—this initiative aims to highlight how equity-focused digital health solutions are scaling in addition to the extent to which innovations are reaching and impacting underserved populations.1

Our field engagement and learning efforts

This effort builds on the work of RockHealth.org’s Equitable Investments Initiative and Equitable Design Initiative by spurring innovation in digital health products, services, and spaces that are designed for and reach populations that face systemic inequities.

Specifically, this project is engaging a diverse group of digital health leaders—including nine expert advisors who represent a cross-section of digital health (and adjacent) actors. These advisors are working closely with the RockHealth.org team to highlight the importance and potential of health equity-centered solutions in digital health. These advisors include:

These leaders are engaging in a series of curated exploratory discussions, interviews, and agenda-setting discussions to develop emerging perspectives that seek to:

  1. Clarify digital health’s underutilized role as a potentially positive determinant of health for underserved and overlooked populations (e.g., reimagining access, impacting health outcomes for groups suffering from health disparities, supporting economic mobility and thus wellbeing, a tool to support the network of caregiving efforts, etc.)
  2. Establish common language and metrics for the digital health ecosystem to discuss, engage, and develop sustainable innovation approaches that advance equity-focused innovation and reach increasingly diverse end-user populations
  3. Highlight high-need and presently underserved end-user populations poised to benefit from digital health innovation in the near term (e.g., communities of color, rural communities, Medicaid recipients, aging populations, caregivers, etc.)
  4. Elevate proof points for digital health innovators to understand potential innovation models to advance health equity innovation within digital health and the solutions to common barriers these innovations face when attempting to scale sustainably
  5. Recommend guidance to digital health investors, buyers, and partnering organizations to support their understanding and assessment of digital health ventures with a health equity focus

As an outcome of these efforts, a series of field-facing content will be published by RockHealth.org in late 2023 to support the broader digital health community alongside the leaders and organizations seeking to address the health needs of more people in more ways.

Our invitation

As RockHealth.org advances this work, we hope to engage potential collaborators and thought partners that can bring additional insight and expertise—based on their unique interests and vantage points—to expand the potential impact of this project.

We specifically seek to engage individuals and organizations that are interested in exploring the following exploratory questions:

  1. What role can digital health play in addressing health inequities and reaching overlooked and underserved communities? What is the market opportunity in this space and what is the long-term opportunity cost, and associated risks, if digital health does not play a significant role here?
  2. What is the current state of play for health equity-focused digital health innovations (e.g., consumer adoption, investment trends, design processes etc.)? Where are there opportunities and challenges?
  3. Where are companies propelling novel products and services that are being designed for/with communities in ways that center equity?
  4. What communities are positioned as potential “early adopters” for solutions at the intersection of digital health and health equity? What communities are at risk of being left behind?

To learn more about this exciting effort or explore potential collaboration opportunities, please reach out to the RockHealth.org team at hello@rockhealth.org.


1 This project is supported by a grant from The SCAN Foundation and implementation support from Tulsa Innovation Labs Virtual Health Team. The SCAN Foundation invests in bold and equitable changes to support older adults as they age in home and community, focusing on four strategic areas: data and tech equity, health equity, new models of healthcare, and financial security. Tulsa Innovation Labs designs and launches new initiatives to catalyze a thriving and inclusive innovation economy in Tulsa, focusing on four core sectors: virtual health, energy tech, advanced air mobility, and cyber.