The COVID-19 pandemic, which ushered in widespread acceptance of telehealth and other digital innovations in medicine, has changed the game for the healthcare sector. Yet the pandemic has also laid bare the issue of healthcare inequity and its well-documented impact on ethnic and racial minorities, rural communities, the underprivileged, and the elderly.
Equal access to affordable and competent healthcare has the potential to improve patient outcomes by providing better quality of life, easing reliance on emergency and late-stage interventions, and reducing early deaths.1 Digital technologies have the potential to play a critical role in efforts to improve health equity. However, rapidly advancing technology may also exacerbate exclusion, introduce unexpected biases, widen the digital divide, and continue to leave some populations behind.
The opportunity for technology and life sciences companies that address health equity challenges with digital innovation is immense, and the downstream economic, financial, and health benefits for society are significant. Leading digital health innovators and investors explored these topics at the 2021 McKinsey Digital Health Conference on Accelerating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Digital Health and offered some early case studies. By building on those topics and case studies, we propose a framework for developing and implementing digital solutions that narrow health equity gaps.