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Duke, Evidation Team Up to Target Health Equity in Digital Health Studies

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   January 17, 2023

The two are joining forces to create analytical technology that would help digital health studies attract a more diverse and representative patient population.

Duke University is joining forces with a California-based digital health firm to develop technology to measure health equity in clinical studies.

The North Carolina university's BIG IDEAs Lab is partnering with Evidation to create "an analytic structure to better predict study participation, adherence, and retention across racial and demographic lines," according to a press release.

While the COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge increase in the use of telehealth and digital health to boost access to care for underserved populations, it also trained the spotlight on social determinants of health and other barriers to care experienced by those groups.

This includes identifying non-clinical factors that hindered access to care and highlighting the lack of diversity in many clinical trials and healthcare studies. Studies indicate that racial and ethnic minorities only comprise 6% of clinical trial populations, yet account for 28% of the US population.

“As digital health research grows and evolves, we need to ensure that research populations are truly representative so that the technologies benefit everyone,” Jessilyn Dunn, PhD, an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, said in the press release. “With our combined expertise, we aim to overcome some of the most persistent challenges in diversity and representation in digital health research.”

Duke's BIG IDEAs Lab uses biomedical and health data to create programs for the early detection, intervention, and prevention of disease. This includes projects that highlight "improved health monitoring through personalized, real-time risk classification and tailored, remote intervention strategies."

“Inclusion of underserved and underrepresented populations in research and study adherence among all groups are key challenges for enabling patient-centered healthcare," added Iredia M. Olaye, PhD, MSc, MHA, a member of Evidation and the Covered By Group investment and advisory firm. "Evidation has deep experience using advanced statistics and machine learning methodologies to rapidly connect with and understand diverse groups of individuals. Together, our work will equip researchers and providers with insights for more rigorous study design. If we can enable more equitable research, we can achieve more equitable care.”

The two organizations said the statistical framework, once created, will be made available to other digital health researchers.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation at HealthLeaders.


Racial and ethinc minorities account for 28% of the US population but only 6% of clinical trial participants.

Digital health programs are often developed to improve access to care for underserved populations, but they struggle to overcome social determinants of health and other non-clinical factors that hinder access to care.

Duke University's BIG IDEAs Lab and Evidation will develop technology that would allow these programs to identify and track study participation, adherence, and retention across racial and demographic lines.

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