New app aims to address disparities in care for Black and brown mothers

A New York City-based tech nonprofit has released a new digital platform aimed at addressing racism and bias in care. 

The app, Irth, is aimed at allowing Black and brown obstetrics patients to search for and leave reviews of their OB/GYN, birthing hospitals, postpartum care and pediatricians up to an infant’s first year.  

The app’s founder, author, journalist and advocate, Kimberly Seals Allers, said she was inspired to create the app by her own birthing experience.  

“When I had my first child, I asked white coworkers and friends for recommendations, read all the ‘best of’ lists for hospitals and was excited to deliver at a highly-ranked institution,” said Seals Allers in a press release.   

“Instead I left feeling dismissed, disrespected and traumatized. Exactly opposite what my white peers had experienced,” she continued.  

WHY IT MATTERS  

Black mothers face far worse health outcomes than those other races. They are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and their chances of experiencing severe pregnancy-related morbidity are more than twice as high.  

Interventions aimed at addressing the maternal health crisis in the United States often fail to adequately address the needs of women of color – Black women in particular.   

“Countless studies point to the prevalence of racism and bias in provider care. Yet Black and brown birthing people, who are disproportionately dying during and after childbirth within the hospital medical system, have no way of knowing how someone like them experienced a doctor or provider,” said Seals Allers.  

“We deserve a public platform to share with others where we are receiving good care,” she continued.  

In addition to a rating system, the app, which launched earlier this year on the Apple and Google Play stores, asks users to say whether they believe their race affected their care.  

According to STAT, about 5,000 verified users have left an estimated 3,000 reviews – which are moderated to make sure they meet community standards – on Irth so far.   

The app was created by Narrative Nation, a nonprofit founded by Seals Allers. As its website notes, the platform is building the first national repository of care experiences from Black and brown birthing patients, eventually providing real-time patient insights to hospitals and providers.

“Together, Irth’s data will educate the field on perceived experiences of bias and racism, better inform current anti-bias training efforts and serve as the foundation of a new suite of educational tools, credentials, and hospital accreditation – all rooted in the lived experience of care,” reads the website.  

THE LARGER TREND  

Many digital-care innovators have taken steps to address the Black maternal health crisis in the United States.

Last year, Healthcare IT News‘ parent company HIMSS announced a global tech challenge, beginning January 2021, aimed at improving maternal health outcomes worldwide, and making addressing racial inequity a focal centerpiece.

Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring have also been floated as potential solutions, but advocates have noted that devices alone won’t solve healthcare disparities.

“We haven’t come to terms and addressed the problems, the inefficiencies, the downright non-equitable and uncompassionate problems of the past,” said former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in an interview earlier this year. “So, what are we building?”

ON THE RECORD  

“We deserve a public platform to share with others where we are receiving good care,” said Seals Allers.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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