The story of American medicine is one of incredible scientific advancements, from the use of penicillin to treat syphilis and other bacterial infections to the countless biomedical breakthroughs made possible by cell-line research. Too often, however, these stories ignore an uncomfortable truth: Some of our nation's most significant medical discoveries were made possible through the mistreatment of Black patients--from the exploitation of African American farmers during the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments to the tragic case of Henrietta Lacks, a black patient whose cells were stolen by doctors and used for decades of cell-line research. Racism is woven into our nation's medical past but is also part of our present, as evidenced by the Covid-19 crisis. From testing to treatment, Black and Latino patients have received a lower quality and quantity of care compared white Americans. As a country, we now have the opportunity to reverse course.
The invitation to participate in a COVID-19 antibody study arrived in Jacquelyn Temple's inbox early last month. Initially, the 72-year-old Leimert Park resident felt hope. She wondered whether the study and accompanying blood test could answer why she had been experiencing months of respiratory problems, even through her coronavirus test had come back negative. Maybe, she thought, the test would reveal that she had been exposed and recovered. Then she was hit with what she calls "a Tuskegee moment."
COVID-19 accomplished what entrepreneurs, doctors, and activists couldn't: Designing a healthcare system that works for patients instead of providers and health insurance companies. The industry promised to be "patient-centered" for the last decade but only the harsh demands of COVID-19 have made this a reality. As Ian McCrae, CEO of Orion Health, described it, COVID-19 is ushering in the long-overdue transformation of the healthcare system and, finally, a move to "patient-centric" health. "There will be a dramatic shift in health IT spend away from large, monolithic hospital upgrades, towards digital front doors into healthcare," McCrae said. This means better data sharing, a universal rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, operationalized machine learning, and more options for mental healthcare.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the use of digital technology in healthcare was on a steady rise; however, the pandemic has spurred rapid development of digital health technology as well as rapid adoption and utilization of that technology in the industry. Digital health holds the promise of increased accessibility to high-quality, patient-centered care that can also increase patient engagement and reduce costs. However, the full realization of this promise may be threatened by policy and regulation that is failing to keep pace with and encourage this evolution. There is no universally accepted definition of digital health. In fact, researchers studying the definition recently came across no fewer than 95 published definitions for the concept of digital health.1 There were, however, some clear patterns: there is an emphasis on how data is used to improve care; there is a focus on the provision of healthcare, rather than the use of technology; and the definitions tend to highlight the well-being of people and populations over the caring of patients with diseases. As used in this article, digital health encompasses the use of digital tools and technologies to improve and manage an individual's or a population's health and wellness.
PROGRAMMING ALERT: Watch Dr. Qanta Ahmed discuss this topic and more on "Fox & Friends" at approximately 7:20 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 3 on Fox News Channel. The decision to hospitalize President Trump on Friday night for several days after he tested positive for COVID-19 appears to be a wise one, taken out of an abundance of caution. It shouldn't lead anyone to conclude he is seriously ill at this time. As a pulmonologist and intensive care physician who has treated COVID-19 patients at NYU Langone Health, where I practice, I know full well that the disease caused by the coronavirus can be quite serious -- and fatal in some cases. But importantly, I also know that the vast majority of COVID-19 patients recover from the disease.