In a country that is so advanced technologically and medically, with one of the highest gross domestic products (GDPs) in the world, it is an unfortunate reality that many Americans continue to lack access to affordable healthcare. According to research from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 28.5 million Americans remained uninsured at the end of 2015 after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a significant decrease from 40 million in 2013 but still a representation of the disparity in health care services blocking lower-income people from coverage.
Healthcare has made significant leaps and bounds over the last few decades as far as technology aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of once-life-threatening illnesses, yet universal coverage of health services does not exist in America as it does in other developed nations. Until the day that equal health services are available to every American citizen, digital technology offers an accessible alternative to those for whom coverage is denied. There is a growing effort to introduce health services to lower-income Americans through their mobile devices. Those that can’t afford to visit a doctor as often as they should can take their health into their own hands with one of these digital health initiatives.
- Doctor on Demand for iOS and Android
This app, free to download, offers a much more affordable consultation option than an in-office visit with a doctor which averages around $160 for uninsured patients. Through the app, patients can communicate with licensed medical professionals via video chat for a flat rate of $40 for a general consultation and $50 for a mental health consultation.
- iTriage for iOS and Android
According to biotech company I Shield, iTriage “is like a mini hospital in your pocket.” The free app offers all of the information and resources you could need to monitor your own health and, if you find that you need to see a medical professional, it provides the rates and wait times of local treatment centers so that you can find your best option. The app doubles as storage device for your medical records.
- Text4Baby for iOS and Android
This app was designed as a free text messaging services for pregnant women and new mothers to access quality maternity advice in both English and Spanish. The information the app offers is all timed to the baby’s due date, and the app also sends you notifications to remind you of upcoming doctor appointments.
This initiative is not an app, but rather a digital counseling program for Medicaid and uninsured prediabetic patients. In 2016, Omada health tested out a prototype of the product in California and Washington in a trial that encompassed more than 300 English and Spanish-language speakers divided amongst three sites. The program offers patients a digital scale, as well as educational materials, behavior counseling, and online peer network, and access to a personal health coach.
- AmWell for iOS and Android
Similar to Doctor on Demand, AmWell allows patients to connect with health professionals from the convenience of home. Physician consultations cost a maximum of $49, and through video chat, patients have access to the same resources an in-person consultation provides, including diagnosis, prescriptions, and advice.
With digital health initiatives such as these, access to healthcare at an affordable price is at the fingertips of lower-income mobile users. It is important to keep in mind that these technologies should never replace the expertise of a licensed medical professional, but they are an accessible alternative to a total lack of treatment.