The coronavirus pandemic put a magnifying glass over existing inequities in healthcare, exposing major disparities that will impact underserved communities for generations to come if not addressed today. How can businesses in the digital health space -- think burgeoning genetic testing companies like Invitae (NYSE:NVTA) and telehealth providers like Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) -- help bridge the gaps?
Ruby Gadelrab is CEO and Founder of MDisrupt, a platform that connects digital health companies to the scientists and healthcare industry experts they need to build, commercialize, and scale health products quickly and responsibly. Ruby joined Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina of Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau on a Jan. 22 episode of Fool Live, where she spoke about the most important lessons learned about the healthcare system from the coronavirus pandemic, and possible solutions to our problems.
Corinne Cardina: The pandemic revealed inequities in every corner of the world and revealed a lot of health disparities, like what you opened with -- the tragic things that we saw over the past year. But as a health expert, what did the pandemic teach you about the U.S. healthcare system, and what solutions to these problems could be worth exploring?
Ruby Gadelrab: The pandemic, it was like the great revealer, I think, somebody called it in another conference. But the pandemic was like putting this magnifying glass over the healthcare system and showing some of the biggest gaps in health disparities. This is everything from the most vulnerable populations catching COVID at higher rates to the most vulnerable populations suffering more severe symptoms when they did contract COVID. Then when we started to roll out testing, there was a question of who had access to testing when and if at all? We did see that black and minority populations were particularly impacted. Again, 2020 was a tough year around the epidemic, around the death of George Floyd -- this did start the big and tough conversations around all the health disparities. I'll give you a couple of examples that are bleeding into digital health. In genetics, all the largest genetic databases in the world are built on Caucasian genomes. Those databases are now being used to create the diagnostics and the therapeutics of the future. When you start to use those on non-Caucasian populations, they just will not be as effective. The second example is wearables. Most of us have some kind of a wearable. Wearables use a particular wavelength of light, that light is used to measure your cardiac rhythms and the darker your skin pigmentation is, the less accurate it is. When those wearables start to be used in a healthcare system to monitor cardiac conditions, this is something we have to be aware of. One company that I think is innovating in this space is a company called 54gene, and they're building the world's first biobank based on African genomes, and their goal is to close some of these gaps in health disparities so that anyone with African descent can have access to new generation of diagnostics and therapeutics. I think if there's one positive thing that came from the pandemic again, in looking for silver linings, it is a renewed interest in solving some of these health disparities, and these go beyond just race. We're talking about women's health, elder care, the LGBTQ community, how do we create solutions to really help some of these underserved communities?