Background: Digital health interventions have become increasingly common across health care, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health inequalities, particularly with respect to ethnicity, may not be considered in frameworks that address the implementation of digital health interventions. We considered frameworks to include any models, theories, or taxonomies that describe or predict implementation, uptake, and use of digital health interventions.
Objective: We aimed to assess how health inequalities are addressed in frameworks relevant to the implementation, uptake, and use of digital health interventions; health and ethnic inequalities; and interventions for cardiometabolic disease.
Methods: SCOPUS, PubMed, EMBASE, Google Scholar, and gray literature were searched to identify papers on frameworks relevant to the implementation, uptake, and use of digital health interventions; ethnically or culturally diverse populations and health inequalities; and interventions for cardiometabolic disease. We assessed the extent to which frameworks address health inequalities, specifically ethnic inequalities; explored how they were addressed; and developed recommendations for good practice.
Results: Of 58 relevant papers, 22 (38%) included frameworks that referred to health inequalities. Inequalities were conceptualized as society-level, system-level, intervention-level, and individual. Only 5 frameworks considered all levels. Three frameworks considered how digital health interventions might interact with or exacerbate existing health inequalities, and 3 considered the process of health technology implementation, uptake, and use and suggested opportunities to improve equity in digital health. When ethnicity was considered, it was often within the broader concepts of social determinants of health. Only 3 frameworks explicitly addressed ethnicity: one focused on culturally tailoring digital health interventions, and 2 were applied to management of cardiometabolic disease.
Conclusions: Existing frameworks evaluate implementation, uptake, and use of digital health interventions, but to consider factors related to ethnicity, it is necessary to look across frameworks. We have developed a visual guide of the key constructs across the 4 potential levels of action for digital health inequalities, which can be used to support future research and inform digital health policies.
Keywords: cardiology; cardiometabolic; cultural; digital health; diverse; diversity; eHealth; ethnicity; framework; health inequalities; health inequality; health technology; metabolic; metabolism; minority; review.
©Mel Ramasawmy, Lydia Poole, Zareen Thorlu-Bangura, Aneesha Chauhan, Mayur Murali, Parbir Jagpal, Mehar Bijral, Jai Prashar, Abigail G-Medhin, Elizabeth Murray, Fiona Stevenson, Ann Blandford, Henry W W Potts, Kamlesh Khunti, Wasim Hanif, Paramjit Gill, Madiha Sajid, Kiran Patel, Harpreet Sood, Neeraj Bhala, Shivali Modha, Manoj Mistry, Vinod Patel, Sarah N Ali, Aftab Ala, Amitava Banerjee. Originally published in JMIR Cardio (https://cardio.jmir.org), 11.08.2022.