In our newest whitepaper, Advancing Health Equity Through the Patient Voice, we discuss why taking advantage of patient centric technology is the first and most time-sensitive step professionals must make to usher in a new era of healthcare data and address costly inequities before they worsen.
The COVID-19 pandemic has mobilized the healthcare industry to finally address the depth and breadth of healthcare inequity. Even as the country moves into an endemic phase of the disease, health equity remains in the headlines. It will persist unless the industry maintains its commitment to driving innovative practices, policies, programs, and technologies, to combat the circumstances that exacerbate inequity.
Despite considerable investment and extensive discussion, tangible progress remains slow. For all the proposed solutions, critical gaps remain in our understanding of socioeconomic factors impacting health outcomes and the efficacy of interventions. While there is abundant data, the industry still primarily measures these problems at a population level—while meaningful change needs to come at a patient level. To effectively understand, address, and solve the disparities in care, patients need a way to provide feedback to be heard, understood, and supported.
Research indicates that racial minorities and other vulnerable populations experience higher rates of disease, poor health conditions, and death than other members of the public. According to the CDC, the average life expectancy of Black and African American people in the US is four years lower than that of white people.1 As these issues compound, the costs of delivering medical services continue to increase yearly. A recent study of the connection between health disparities and US healthcare spending by Deloitte found that inequities cost approximately $320 billion annually and will surpass $1 trillion in 2040 if left unaddressed.2 Social determinants of health (SDOH) and related social needs such as access to insurance, food security, housing stability, and transportation are key indicators of health-related outcomes.
Tapping into Emerging Technologies
Healthcare stakeholders are implementing a variety of solutions aimed at tackling the challenges of health inequity, including new patient screening methods, quality measures, integrated care models, and value-based payment programs. Yet there remains significant untapped potential as to how non-medical data influencing health outcomes is captured consistently and effectively. Digital health tools can help determine the prevalence of health-related social needs and inform the strategies that providers, biopharmaceutical companies, and health plans need to deploy to overcome them. Purpose-built technology can also help these stakeholders measure the impact of interventions over time.
Equally important, providing a platform for patients to share their individual treatment challenges, preferences, and concerns with their care teams from the comfort of their own homes, builds trust and better patient experiences.
Using these digital tools, providers can:
- Offer a safe platform for patients and caregivers to share honest details about health-related social needs and connect them with available support
- Consistently identify health-related social needs as they evolve over the entire patient journey
- Enhance the longitudinal patient record with direct insights and intelligence
- More effectively understand the efficacy and impact of health equity-related initiatives
Engaging patients directly creates a unique opportunity to ensure they are heard, understood, and supported at every touchpoint throughout the care continuum.
Increased use of digital health tools comes with a difficult truth, however: populations that stand to gain the most are those most in danger of being left behind. Any investments must consider access, ease of use, health literacy, technology literacy, cross-departmental coordination, and myriad factors. Intentional, purpose-built technologies are the only approach to success.
The Power of the Patient’s Voice
There is inherent value in incorporating the patient voice into care delivery and enabling patients to share honestly about day-to-day concerns, treatment challenges, care preferences, and health objectives. As health equity programs mature and the inclusion of patient voices continues to grow in importance, technology can immediately provide beneficial patient-derived intelligence that helps care teams manage SDoH and related social needs affecting the populations they serve.
Through smartphones, tablets, and computers accessed from their home or even within the clinic, patients can note health-related social and environmental concerns, challenges, preferences, objectives, and any other information relevant to their care before each appointment. A structured information-sharing channel dramatically reduces providers’ discovery burden, helps deliver data to providers before visits, and provides insights into potential proactive service adjustments.
Using valuable non-medical data, clinicians gain more opportunities to address patient concerns via shared decision-making and explore additional topics that may influence treatment plans and outcomes, from personal care goals and treatment challenges to health-related social needs and beyond.
Our whitepaper, Advancing Health Equity Through the Patient Voice, provides more depth and data on each of the facets we’ve covered here, with examples and data from the field. Learn more about the next generation of actionable data and real-world intelligence using real-world examples and research that clearly show how real-world, patient-reported data can bring many benefits to patients, providers, and healthcare stakeholders across the ecosystem.
1. Impact of Racism on our Nation’s Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. US Health Care Can’t Afford Health Inequities, Deloitte