• AAFP Pledges Support for Equity in Health Tech Tools

    Health Technologies Should Be Accessible to All

    November 8, 2021, 8:40 a.m. Cindy Borgmeyer ― The AAFP has joined more than three dozen health care and advocacy organizations, academic institutions, health technology firms, and other stakeholder groups in announcing their commitment to a prescribed set of principles that aim to ensure digital health technologies realize their potential as “powerful tools to identify and address health inequities.”

    health equity concept

    The Academy’s decision aligns with its ongoing efforts to identify and evaluate innovative technologies that can support family physicians and their practices, according to AAFP Vice President and Chief Medical Informatics Officer Steven Waldren, M.D., M.S.

    “With the accelerated investment in digital health solutions and the progression of data made available through the information-blocking regulations, we expect to see significant growth in the digital health space,” said Waldren. “This effort complements our work to optimize the family medicine experience through leveraging technology to decrease physician and practice burden. It is crucial that digital health solutions support equity and diversity and do not increase the burden on physicians and practices.”

    In a “Digital Health Equity Pledge” released on day two of eHealth Initiative’s Nov. 3-4 virtual Digital Health Equity Summit, the 41 groups promised to consider the principles throughout all stages of developing the evidence base for various digital health technologies, “ensuring that when widely disseminated, they have demonstrated value for all segments of the population.”

    As organizations “dedicated to improving the health of all individuals,” they note, “we commit to the following principles to ensure these tools do not exacerbate existing biases.”

    The principles reflect the signatories’ assurances in four key areas.

    • Accessibility. Digital health technologies need to be accessible to all segments of the population, including people with disabilities, and should emphasize inclusion of all digital and health literacy levels and non-English languages.
    • Diversity. Digital health technologies should be developed with the diverse populations they serve in mind. The process of designing, implementing and testing technologies should be transparent and serve individuals of all genders, sexual orientations, races, religions and socioeconomic levels.
    • Respect. Recognizing that certain populations have been disproportionately harmed by misuse of their personal health information, the privacy needs and preferences of historically marginalized populations and communities should be respected and honored along with those of the population at large.
    • Public Policy. It’s important to advance public policies that address systemic causes of health inequities and support health care professionals in leveraging digital health technologies as tools that can identify and help address health inequities experienced by their patients.

    “We know firsthand how the promise of technology can fall short and erode care delivery,” Waldren noted. “The industry must understand the importance of addressing inequity and supporting diversity, and these principles help do that.”

    The pledge will remain open for additional organizational signatories until Dec. 1. Official representatives of interested organizations are invited to sign on to the document.