Using technology to make healthcare more equitable

The CDC defines Health Equity as the opportunity for everyone to be as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, according to researchers from UCLA, health equity has been on the decline for the past 30 years in the United States. Payment incentive structures have entrenched divisions between different groups of citizens. These disparities are created along lines of race, gender, age, socioeconomic status amongst other factors. These biases exist at the personal, interpersonal, institutional and systemic levels to reduce accessibility to healthcare. One disastrous consequence of healthcare inequity is the depression of healthcare outcomes in neglected populations. When people lack access to adequate healthcare they neglect routine check-ups which exacerbate healthcare issues in the future. In the US, these healthcare inequities result in an additional $230 billion burden on the healthcare system. 

Some striking examples of healthcare inequity involve access to care for different racial groups. In the United States, the Center for American Progress finds that 13.8% of African Americans have poor health compared to 8.2% of non-Hispanic whites and 12.6% of African American children have asthma compared to 7.7% of non-Hispanic white children. Perhaps the most egregious difference exists for African American mothers who are 2 – 3 times more likely to die during childbirth than their white female counterparts. These inequities persist across country lines as well. The OECD has found that low Income countries have consistently higher rates of child mortality than high income countries.

Solving the issue of healthcare inequity is not immediately obvious. The complexity of healthcare disparities means that money alone cannot solve inequalities; in fact, it may just perpetuate them.  In order to solve inequity issues, it is important to recognize the nuance of the issues. For example, providing culturally competent care is essential to creating productive relationships between providers and patients. This issue requires understanding what types of doctors are needed in certain populations. Another common problem with accessibility to healthcare is the lack of hospitals or care providers in certain communities. Strikingly, 1 in 5 residential areas in the United States can be classified as medical deserts. 

Fortunately, technology has the capability to address many of the inequities that result in reduced access to healthcare. Communities that lack access to healthcare facilities can rely on technology to bridge the gap between patients needing care and doctors. Often the underlying problems of healthcare lie in the disconnect between providers and patients regarding their care status and treatment options. Patients often feel frustrated when unable to communicate with their providers regarding their conditions, test results and treatments. Thus, it is important to focus technologies to create more seamless communication between providers and patients and improve trust. 

Technology can be utilized to refocus the healthcare experience on the patient and their needs. Technology will work to connect patients to culturally competent services such as translators and providers. Through technology platforms, patients are able to easily engage their family and caregivers with their health data to improve communication and reduce the stress of coordinating care with family. Additionally, platforms for patients to visit doctors virtually eliminate the issue of distance from a care facility. Patients can access care from anywhere, which will work to improve health outcomes. At Roseland, Tell Health saw a 6-fold increase in engagement of the patient portal, because of its unique ability to help the patient achieve their healthcare goals. 

As an industry, healthcare needs to leverage technology more effectively in order to improve outcomes and reduce inequities. At Tell Health we are working towards improving the quality of healthcare with technology. Our vision with our user-friendly platform is to make healthcare delivery as easy as possible, so that barriers to accessibility are no longer a reason for poor health outcomes. With our technology we want to be a supporting hand to improve accessibility and reduce inequity in healthcare.