In 2014, the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved released a “good news” report.  The report describes exciting opportunities to “jump start” use of health information technology (HIT) in communities of color (COC). The authors point to the explosion of mobile technology use in these communities as reason for optimism. Luis Belen, NHIT Collaborative's chief executive officer and report co-author, noted:  "Research confirms that greater use of HIT among racial/ethnic minorities can help close health gaps and support higher quality care. We believe tools such as mobile health applications offer bright hope for consumers in our communities”.

Data presented in the report give reasons for hope:

  • African American diabetic patients had improved health outcomes and better communication with their doctors when given access to patient portals, along with technical help and social networking support
  • Three out of four minority patients receiving care from a San Francisco clinic would like to use an email platform to communicate with medical staff.
  • Among users of mobile technology, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to use health care applications than non-minority consumers.
  • Latinos are more likely than any other patient group to research health information on their mobile phones and are also  more likely to view health-related text messages as helpful as compared with their non-Latino counterparts.

The Collaborative’s report cites barriers to overcome in order to achieve mobile technology’s full potential. They include low health literacy, trust issues and the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate applications. Recommendations in the report include greater collaboration between COCs and HIT vendors; increased HIT adoption among providers serving racial/ethnic minorities;  and  support for HIT education initiatives conducted by COC organizations.

Danielle Brooks, J.D., the report’s principal author and a NHIT Collaborative senior consultant, offered this assessment of the report’s findings: “Something exciting is happening in our communities. We are taking our health, literally, in our own hands.” Ruth Perot, co-founder of the Collaborative and a co-author added: “Mobile devices give people of color and members of other underserved groups the power to take charge of their health. With these tools we can help halt the trends of too much disease and too many preventable deaths in our communities.”

The Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided support for research conducted for the report. Its title is: Promoting Consumer Engagement and Empowerment through the Adoption of HIT in Communities of Color. 

                                                           (This report was created with funds from the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)

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