Applying tech solutions to healthcare problems that fall through the cracks

Health 2.0's Unacceptables panel zeros in on human trafficking, homelessness and maternal mortality.
By Laura Lovett
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Despite the United States' leading reputation in innovation and healthcare, if you search hard enough in any U.S. city you can find a story of health disparity, with neglected demographics falling through the cracks. Perhaps the most unseen peoples are those currently being exploited and trafficked.  

Human trafficking impacts roughly 40 million people worldwide, according to the The International Labor Organization. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, accounting for 75% of those trafficked, the organization estimates. While the problem is global, the U.S. is not exempt. 

Notably, the topic made headlines this year when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was accused of soliciting sex from women and girls held in “sexual servitude.” But this is far from the only case in the U.S. 

“I’d always been aware of the issue of human trafficking, and it is something happening in our backyards and not something happening out there in other countries,” Indu Subaiya, senior advisor and co-founder of Health 2.0, told MobiHealthNews.

Subaiya will be hosting the Unacceptable event at Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California, on September 17, a yearly panel discussion that brings to light challenging topics that have traditionally fallen through the cracks in the healthcare system. This year the panel is zeroing in on human trafficking, homelessness and maternal mortality. 

The discussion isn’t just about the problem but also about finding tech-enabled solutions to fight the issue. For example, Dignity Health has created internal digital modules for its staff to learn the signs of human trafficking. 

“If you are a doctor, nurse and have a patient who was trafficked but didn’t know it, how would you know it if you didn’t screen for it?” Subaiya said. 

Dignity rolled out a new digital tool called PEARR — which stands for provide privacy, educate, ask, respect and respond — that uses a “trauma-informed” model. It is aimed at helping clinicians identify human trafficking. 

While the healthcare system may not be the most equipped to deal with the challenges of human trafficking, tools can help point providers toward resources that are. 

The panelists will also be looking at maternal mortality, with a focus on black women, who are statistically at the greatest risk in the U.S. According to the CDC, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women is three to four times higher than those of white women — a racial disparity present across socioeconomic lines. 

The discussion will look at how innovators are using a multipronged approach to tackling this issue with both community- and provider-based initiatives. Subaiya named the tech company Momi, which links a mother’s and baby’s health records. 

“They are providing the IT platform that links records and [has] 24/7 monitoring and coaching to one-year post birth. They flagged more than 1K cases of sepsis.”

Lastly, the Unacceptables panel will touch on homelessness. In particular, the speakers will be evaluating using blockchain to help link up health records with homeless individuals.

“It is not solving everything, but we need interoperability and authentication,” she said. 

Subaiya stressed that all three of these topics can be solved. 

“I think what is important to me about the unacceptable is, I think of it as these are disparities we have the means and know-how to address. That is why they are called the unacceptable,” she said. “It is to shine the light on what we have the know-how to fix.”

The Unacceptable panel at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California, will be held on September 17 from 3:20 p.m. − 4:25 p.m. in Mission City B1. 

Health 2.0

The Santa Clara conference will showcase cutting-edge innovation transforming healthcare Sept. 16-18.