Achieving Health Equity in a World of Data
A Sawyer Seminar on Precision and Uncertainty in a World of Data sponsored by the Department of History of Medicine, Department of Anthropology, Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Center for Health Equity, Just Tech, & the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health
Digital Health, defined by the FDA as including “categories such as mobile health (mHealth), health information technology (IT), wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and personalized medicine” has the potential to empower patients to make better decisions about their own health while facilitating prevention, providing early diagnosis, surveillance, management and prediction of chronic conditions. New health technologies also help clinicians improve health outcomes through greater access to and use of patient data. At the same time, digital health poses a risk of reinforcing racial disparities in healthcare through algorithmic bias, digital redlining, tacit racism in clinical documentation, unrepresentative data, and the lack of diversity in the decision-makers and users of health informatics applications. Added to this, the potential compromise of patients’ privacy, the lack of health data integration, data overload issues, security concerns, and limited or inefficient data visualization are upstream and downstream obstacles to digital health’s potential to transform healthcare. Combined with technical anxiety and slow adoption of digital health innovation, these myriad factors limit the capacity of digital health to facilitate health equity.
Grappling with the problem that race and racism poses for digital health, and the great potential that digital health represents to reduce or exacerbate existing health disparities, requires discussion and inquiry across several domains of technical expertise, clinical experience, and critical humanities and social sciences. This conference aims to serve as a forum to engage with the opportunities and challenges/risks? of digital health and health informatics from historical, ethnographic, ethical, economic, and pragmatic perspectives. It invites submissions from a variety of methodological, theoretical, and multidisciplinary perspectives.