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Technology’s Role Improving Health for All

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By: Gerald Johnson, MBA, EVP, Office of Health Equity and Chief Diversity Officer, American Heart Association and Byron Scott, MD, MBA, Deputy Chief Health Officer, IBM Watson Health

The promise of technologies, devices, and solutions have to improve healthcare, and perhaps more importantly, health outcomes is what is exciting. There are increasing improvements in the capabilities of monitoring devices and apps to involve patients in their care and improve consumer’s knowledge of their health risks, too. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Center for Health Technology & Innovation is focused on working within this dynamic marketplace to leverage technologies to improve health.

That said, excitement around these rapid technological advancements in screening, monitoring and analytics is tempered by the potential to exacerbate health disparities in the marketplace, increasing the gap between those that have access and means and those who do not. This may be particularly true as consumer and medical technologies merge and as see high-end consumer devices and apps become more effective and more necessary to manage their health conditions and deliver solutions.

The rapid advancement of technical capabilities — improved sensing, more rapid and cloud-based analytics, an interoperable medical system through various Apps and devices – are paving the way.

But, at the same time, we are keenly aware of the health disparities that exist. For instance, we know death rates varying widely by zip code in the U.S., and the latest thinking points to that being largely a function of the socioeconomic and educational factors at play.

Potentially, technology could drive a more accessible model in healthcare; from the influence of social media on behaviors, to the accessibility that mobile health apps. Not to mention, the massive amount of venture and institutional dollars that have been put in the hands of technologists and clinical experts to use and apply a wide-range of technologies to solve healthcare problems is remarkable and continues to grow.

IBM and the American Heart Association are working together to potentially harness the promise of these technologies in hopes of helping clinicians and care teams address healthcare problems, but also are committed to balancing the need for these technologies to be accessible to the entire marketplace. The American Heart Association and IBM kicked-off this new focus with an active discussion at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago at the AHA’s Health Innovation last month.

MD, MBA, Deputy Chief Health Officer, IBM Watson Health

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