Bringing Diversity to the Health Tech Ecosystem

Photo Credit: Black Girls Code project

Photo Credit: Black Girls Code project


The following is a guest post by Dr. Ivor Horn. Ivor is a physician, thought leader and health services researcher with a passion for technology, health innovation and the underserved. Learn more about her on her website.

While we have made great strides over the last decade, minority communities are still disproportionately affected by health disparities in this country. However, there is a convergence of technology use among minority communities that has created an opportunity to disrupt the current trajectory of health disparities.

Minorities are early adopters when it comes to mobile technology for many reasons – cost, transportability and internet access to name a few. They are the fastest growing population of smartphone users and more likely to go online using their cell phones, especially to connect via social media.  As early adopters of mobile technology, minority and urban communities may be best positioned to benefit from tech innovations in health care.  Of note, African Americans are twice as likely as whites to use mobile health applications (15% vs. 7%) with Latinos not far behind (11%). When we asked families in our clinics if they would be interested in receiving health information via mobile, almost 90% said yes. The Pew Internet Project has great details on the use of health & tech and by whom.

To date there have been very few companies & initiatives developing tech services focused on these communities of color, but the tide is shifting.

Innovations in health technology offer great promise for reducing health disparities, but there is a need for an ecosystem that promotes the development, implementation and evaluation of such technology solutions geared toward minority populations who need it the most.  There is a need for a partnership between developers, the health system, funders and communities.

At next year’s South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) event (discussed a few times here on the Pulse + Signal blog) – a flurry of digital, futuristic and innovative pioneers will be descending upon Austin, Texas. While many of us in the digital health and innovation landscape are looking forward to connecting and ushering in new ideas – a few of us will be discussing what can be happening right now to create impact.

In order to bring alot of what I’ve mentioned to the forefront, I’ve joined with extraordinarily smart colleagues/thought leaders in the health care and technology landscape (including Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code – photo above is from one of their workshops) to put together a hands-on workshop proposal for next year and I hope you’ll get on board with spreading the word! Our workshop will help to not only expose the plethora of opportunities for tech entrepreneurs to get involved in changing the health landscape for communities of color but it will also begin connecting the dots for those who want to create lasting social impact.

Want to help get us to SXSW next year so we can make this happen?

  1. Create a SXSW PanelPicker account (if you already haven’t)
  2. Vote for our session by clicking on the thumbs up icon
  3. Feel awesome about contributing to a much needed aspect of the event and the future of health innovation

It really is that simple! I’m looking forward to making this happen and moving things forward for the benefit of many in our communities.

P.S.: We’re all on Twitter so follow us: Ivor Horn, Alisa Hughley, Kimberly Bryant & Damon Davis



  1. Dr. Onyeije – Thanks for casting your vote to support our panel. I see the potential in my practice and we know that the data supports it. By building an ecosystem build momentum for these efforts I’m certain that we will make great strides in this area. Looking forward to seeing you in Austin.

    Janet – I think that sounds like a great idea and thanks for sharing!

  2. Andre Blackman says:

    Absolutely, Janet 🙂

  3. Old patterns of thought die hard… I’m continually surprised when I hear (or perceive) that bleeding edge mobile technological advances are more suited for high-income communities. I would contend (as this article suggests) that there is indeed synergy between communities that have already embraced mobile technology and which have health related concerns that cry out for disruptive mobile/medical solutions. I remain hopeful that this and other platforms I’m seeing will move us towards progress in this area. I’m casting my vote on the SXSW PanelPicker today and hope to meet with the authors in Austin!

  4. Andre Blackman says:

    Glad you feel the same way Anna! It definitely is a conversation to have and really hope it moves forward.

  5. Thanks for sharing this,, Janet. This is a very important topic.

  6. Please do this panel – and then repeat it here in the Triangle, NC. TIMA would be interested.


  1. […] an article posted on Pulse and Signal, Dr. Horn observes that “while minorities are early adopters of mobile technology, and […]

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