JaLisa Johnson, Founder 360Spaces

V-ETS

Health technology investments continue to soar, with over $30B invested in 2021. Although the pandemic and murder of George Floyd have ushered in a significant increase for funders of color, given the magnitude of our health inequities, it is not enough. We urgently need to identify and support tech entrepreneurs who deeply understand the communities most impacted by health inequities. One such little-known tech entrepreneur is JaLisa Johnson, a Black information technology expert. She sprang to action at the height of the pandemic to address health inequity and she is among many unseen Black and Brown tech founders whose expertise, creativity and cultural sensitivity can accelerate efforts toward achieving health equity. 

For over a decade, Johnson has been building technology to support community health through her company, Virtual Emerging Technology Solutions (V-ETS). However, the early pandemic revelation that Black people disproportionately died from Covid-19 spurred Johnson to act. Dismayed by reports of uneven healthcare access and incomplete data collection, Johnson responded by using her resources and creating 360Spaces which she dubs “a hospital without walls.” Her goals are to enable access to healthcare for people in their communities and develop mechanisms for patients to understand and govern their health data. Johnson says, “Once I saw what was happening with access in the pandemic, I reimagined what accessible healthcare could look like in a crisis. This inspired my vision for 360Spaces.”  

Photo of 360Spaces interior

V-ETS

360Spaces are modular medical spaces fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The units are equipped with built-in technology that enables users to govern the use, control and access of their medical data. The tools also capture data for medical exams, diagnostics and to comply with public health mandates. Johnson designed the spaces to be self-contained to function “off-grid.” She says, “It is important that our mobile medical solutions enable digital access in rural or other communities with limited resources.” Thus, each unit is equipped with water and power sources and a digital hot spot for telecommunication. The spaces can also function as affordable housing, potentially solving multiple social and healthcare-related challenges with a single solution. The tech-enabled units can also be tailored and outfitted as isolation quarters for infectious diseases, pharmacies, medical triage, laboratories, hospice, infusion centers and can even serve as temporary housing for on-call healthcare providers.  

 The brilliance in Johnson’s approach is its potential to respond to some of the most daunting healthcare and costly challenges: access, data ownership and housing. For example, among those experiencing homelessness, lack of convenient access to care often results in avoidable emergency department use and hospitalization expenditures. In addition, when caring for underserved communities, one of the most significant challenges is the capture and retention of accurate demographic data, contact information and clinical data across health systems. Johnson’s solution could revolutionize healthcare and data capture for the homeless or other populations. If her vision is realized, some underserved community members could also begin to understand and govern their clinical data, which results in numerous benefits. These include a better understanding of their health and improved engagement in upstream care, leading to earlier diagnosis and decreased cost of costly downstream care. 

Johnson’s efforts and her lived experiences and insights into the problems she aims to solve are invaluable. However, like many Black entrepreneurs, she will not realize the full potential of her innovations without financial capital. She believes if investors were aware of her work and accomplishments thus far, they would see an investable business with a roadmap to solid financial returns. She also believes many Black entrepreneurs have the expertise and insight to solve intractable problems in healthcare like health equity but they lack access to those willing to invest in founders they do not know. Johnson says, “We are capable, have a wealth of talent and innately have the intuition and ability to disrupt industries, but we don’t have access. We have to be given a chance to succeed even though we are not in the inner Ivy league circles.”  

 Johnson knows health equity is all the rage in healthcare right now and that this could be her moment. Shifting our health ecosystem toward health equity requires a willingness to do something drastically different from what we have done- which might be 360Spaces. Could 360Spaces inspired homes, modular clinics and pharmacies be among the solutions we are overlooking? Maybe so, which means achieving health equity includes identifying and supporting unseen, little-known, and overlooked founders JaLisa Johnson.

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