Healthcare's Underserved: A Wealth of Opportunities

The women of ZeroDivide.org's Health 2.0 panel were quick to point out, simple solutions go a lot farther to address the underserved market. And there is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurship.
09/26/2014 02:10 pm ET Updated Nov 26, 2014

"Keep your patient & community at the center...don't forget the people you care for are most important." - Marisue Garganta, Dignity Health

With tech's easy scalability and healthcare's complex problems, we are often quick to create complex solutions. Yet as the women of ZeroDivide.org's Health 2.0 panel were quick to point out, simple solutions go a lot farther to address the underserved market. And there is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurship.

The United States does tax less and spend less on social programs than most of the rich democracies with which it is usually compared. And we spend nearly $200 - 500 billion on welfare every year -- that doesn't include healthcare and pensions. When we include the market to address women's health and ESL among others, we quickly grow that market number.

Those are some pretty big numbers up for grabs by smart tech. The women on the panel -- Rebecca, Marisue, Kristina and Ming Ming offered the following advice to would-be entrepreneurs.

MAKE IT COST EFFECTIVE
Social services has limited financial resources, but work with a large number of individuals and partners. If you design your product to fit their cost structures, it will be a win-win for both of you.

Additionally, they are likely understaffed and overwhelmed with the number of folks they need to serve. Time is something they are also short on, so

KEEP IT SIMPLE
Design simple technologies for underserved patients that fit their life -- Rebecca Coelius, Code for America

While problems in health tend towards complexity, solutions should be simple. Usually an app just needs to do one thing well -- whether providing instructions in images for ESL speakers or texting the patient to let them know their appointments is ready.

And the life of underserved patients may look different from yours so

DESIGN FOR USER CONSTRAINTS
Marisue related an anecdote of a non-compliant patient who the social services decided to come visit...then discovered he was homeless. "Housing is healthcare" - said Marisue as the other panelists nodded.

Many patients in the underserved population live under different constraints. Whether limited minutes from a shared family phone or an inability to wait in line for three hours at the pharmacy. Take into account these constraints when designing solutions, along with..

KEEP COMMUNITY IN MIND
Patients do not exist in isolation. There are typically multiple service providers working together along with the patients family and the community where they live. Health is a shared activity -- each individual needs to play a role.

The more of these pieces that your solution can connect, the more valuable your solution will be. And of course, don't forget to...

MAKE DATA SAFE AS WELL AS SHAREABLE
Ming Ming Kwan of Asia Pacific Islander Wellness Center wished she "knew what other services patients received" so she didn't have to ask the same question multiple times. Other panelists shared the same sentiment as they thought how to reduce the burden on the patient to supply similar data multiple times. Often it's an incredible burden for the patient to track and they have minimal time. With better data collection efforts (a point emphasized by Kristina Sheridan, Mitre), each service provider can provide better care for the patient. As well, if it were easily shareable across organizations, patients have a more complete record, better support from community, and a simple solution for themselves.

If entrepreneurs can find solutions accounting for the above, they will accomplish what all panelists believe is important -- treating individuals with dignity.