10:20 - 10:40 amSaturday, September 6
Plenary Hall
Is e-health an enabler or a solution to health inequality?
Plenary Hall
Is e-health an enabler or a solution to health inequality?
Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston
The potential for e-health and information technologies to ameliorate and even eliminate health disparities is enormous. Health social media tools that help develop, sustain, and strengthen integrated... Read more

Description

The potential for e-health and information technologies to ameliorate and even eliminate health disparities is enormous. Health social media tools that help develop, sustain, and strengthen integrated and collaborative health as well as increase access and quality overall may prove useful to ameliorate healthcare inequities; the linkage should not, however, be taken for granted. The research evidence addressing the impact of economic and social disparities on the physical, social, mental, and emotional well being of people, as well as the quality of health care services is irrefutable and extensive. If the virtualization of health care interactions expands and offers the opportunity for a better quality of care, then we are to ask to what extend do these social technologies further or ameliorate disparities and inequity. New technologies appear at an accelerated rate, and it seems logical to predict their potential for addressing access and quality issues related to the active participation of patients in their care, and the healthcare system’s ability to effectively reach more patients. These emerging technologies could, therefore, foster empowered patients. Innovation per se, however, is not enough. This is especially relevant in the case of low-income segments of the population, racial and ethnic minority populations, English language learners, those with low levels of health literacy, and other vulnerable populations. The risk of deepening these disparities is inevitable. The digital divide in e-health is a serious barrier and a contributor to health disparities. If e-health were about reducing healthcare inequity, we would need to measure to what extend it is part of a strategy that focuses on access and quality for those who are left behind in the race for healthcare innovation. However, the digital divide is not dictated solely by economic access to social media tools or lack of health literacy on the part of patients, but also by the choices that health care systems make. The tools that may have been adopted by early adopters, for instance, may pose difficulties to underserved and vulnerable populations. Innovators do not seem to first include these populations in participating in the design of tools, or even investigate what tools these patients are already utilizing and can possibly easily access. Furthermore, consideration of the health issues faced by vulnerable populations as well as the cultural contexts in which they live is critical in developing digital tools that aim to reduce health care disparities. This presentation intends to highlights the potential and danger of present efforts through the research evidence, experts and patients views, and the author’s research on the value of communities online, cultural competency of health information technology platforms, patient views on decision-making, and the impact of technology adoption among families.

Gonzalo Bacigalupe, EdD (University of Massachusetts Amherst), MPH (Harvard University), is Professor of the Master of Science in Family Therapy Program and the PhD in Counseling PsychologyCollege of Education & Human Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is Ikerbasque Research Professor at the Deusto Stress and Resilience Research Team at the University of Deusto.  Bacigalupe is President of the American Family Therapy Academy. Bacigalupe is co-principal investigator of a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Pilot research project: Influence and evidence: Understanding consumer choices in preventive care. He is research faculty in the Health Equity Scholars Program of the UMass Center for Health Equity Intervention Research, an NIMHHD P-60 5 years grant for a joint effort by the UMass Medical School and UMass Boston. He is also an Adjunct Professor with the University at Distance in Spain (UNED). Bacigalupe is strategic consultant of Regroup Therapy.  His research with colleagues in Spain, Turkey, Mexico, and the USA, focuses on the impact of emerging media adoption on families,  transnational/immigrant families, family health, and e-health. In conjunction with the Basque Institute for Healthcare Innovation (o+Berri) and the Population Health Management Research Team atKronikgune, he evaluated the role of healthcare virtual communities of practice and the role of social networks in supporting patients with multiple chronic illness. As part of the Basque Prevención y Vida Saludable (PVS) research team, he collaborates in a practice outcome based research project to instill a population health model in primary care. 

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