Are Digital Health Technologies Excluding Patients Who Need the Most Care?

Text-based health technologies shown to improve insurance rates among low income mothers.

Smartphone applications and new technologies that track wellbeing could potentially be missing patients who require more extensive care.

These applications and fitness trackers require individuals to be able to afford a cell phone and the costs associated, or a fitness tracking device such as a Fitbit, which may not be a feasible option for certain individuals. Recently, some health advocates have stated that more digital health technologies should be created for lower-income individuals, since they are more likely to have expensive chronic illnesses, Kaiser Health News reported.

Offerings such as appointment reminders are only provided by approximately 35% of healthcare providers that responded to a survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund in 2015. Importantly, these reminders do not require a smartphone or internet access.

Certain initiatives such as Text4Baby send text messages to remind pregnant women about prenatal care, as well as other information about pregnancy. More than half of users reported an income of less than $16,000. Text4Baby also partnered with the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in hopes of signing up uninsured mothers.

Approximately 47% of women who enrolled in the program between December 2012 and August 2013 reported they had health insurance through Medicaid or CHIP, according to an analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation. Women who reported they were uninsured were then sent information about Medicaid or CHIP, and a majority of those women signed up for insurance.

In order to improve the health of lower income patients, more physicians and companies should offer text messaging-based options that will remind patients to take their medications, remind them about their appointments, or track their symptoms, since these incentives have proven successful.