If telemedicine wants to serve a global population, it can’t be shortsighted about language. Language is essential. In New York City, half of the population does not speak English as home.
2. Scaling the Digital Divide
Invest resources/staff into underserved communities and reap the rewards.
About 50 percent of the UniteHere! members I tested the telemedicine app with were confident tech users. These were the type of people to whom you could say, “Download this app and let me know what you think.” Typically, this is the person that tech developers are designing for. The other 50 percent of UniteHere! members I tested the technology with had never downloaded an application on their smartphones. They needed step-by-step assistance to help them learn how to use it. Once they learned however, they were up and running.
A lot has been written lately about the lack of gender and racial diversity in tech. As CNN Money writes, “After all, engineers build gadgets and software for men, women and people of every color—and a diverse workforce means a more expansive understanding of what customers want.” In this instance, increased diversity would contribute to designing better gadgets and software, and work to get that technology into the hands of “unlikely” customers.
The Opportunity: How might we bring the benefits of telemedicine to underserved communities?
Here is the good news: The UniteHere! members I tested the telemedicine app with uniformly LOVED the service. They loved that if their child got sick in the middle of the night they could see a doctor from home for the cost of a primary care visit, instead of going to the emergency room and paying a much bigger bill. They loved that telemedicine gave them the option of getting a doctor’s opinion on that pesky rash, and even receive a needed prescription, without having to miss a day of work. One UniteHere! member who suffers with chronic conditions said, “I’m a fan of this, and I’m not a fan of ANYTHING.” Another said, “This is like having a doctor in your pocket.”
On top of that, the UniteHere! members who struggled with the technology were completely undeterred from trying to learn it, and were still very enthusiastic about what it could do for them. Some members sat with me for over an hour working to set their mobile accounts up. What should have been a 5-minute registration process took longer. They didn’t have an email address. Or they couldn’t remember the password to their email address. Or they were confused about how to enter their insurance information. At no point did they say, “This app is not worth it. I’m out of here.” They wanted what the technology could provide for them.