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Driving Better Outcomes Through Health Equity

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John Erwin is the Chief Executive Officer at Carenet Health.

Without health equity, improving the patient experience and driving better health outcomes cannot be achieved. Health disparities prevent individuals from accessing quality healthcare, create barriers to healthy lifestyles and impact a patient’s ability to effectively manage their care and get the treatment they need. Regardless of an individual’s background or socioeconomic status, everyone in the United States deserves access to high-quality healthcare, and industry leaders play a critical role in the effort to achieve health equity for all.

 

Addressing social determinants of health remains a critical step to improving health outcomes and reducing inequities in healthcare. Even as leaders and their teams work to find new and innovative ways to improve health equity, factors such as language barriers, high healthcare costs and poor health literacy continue to prevent patients from receiving the best care possible. By defining and communicating a vision and mission that prioritizes health equity as an organization’s core value, you can help pave the way to improve patients’ journeys and drive better health outcomes.

The Convergence Of Human And Digital Support

In separate reports that my company published in 2022 and 2023, surveyed patients and health plan members indicated that they prefer a balanced combination of human and digital interactions when managing their healthcare. These individuals want more positive experiences through improved communication and high-quality customer support from representatives who are both knowledgeable and compassionate. When interacting with providers and payers, patients and plan members want their questions and issues resolved in real time by real people—they want someone to listen to them with empathy, and they want to feel cared for.

 

In addition to the importance of the human touch, consider delivering easy-to-use multilingual apps and online solutions to help your users find in-network providers or specialists in their area, review and pay bills and obtain test results. These easy-to-access digital resources combined with well-trained live-voice support centers are all useful resources for effectively serving diverse populations.

Equity Begins In The Workplace

The focus on better patient experiences and improved outcomes through health equity begins at home, as organizations need to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace at every level. According to McKinsey, corporate and institutional investments in DEI are expected to more than double to over $15 billion by 2026.

 

In its report, McKinsey identified success factors across DEI initiatives that yielded the most significant, quantifiable, and sustained impact for underrepresented groups. These success factors included offering all employees free educational and upskilling opportunities, reducing salary gaps within an organization and accelerating gender parity at the management and executive levels. These are just a few of the steps you can take within your company to ensure that your workforce is as diverse as the consumer populations you serve.

Using Data Collection And Analytics To Address Inequities

Another equally critical driver of health equity is the role of data collection and analysis to identify where improvements in the consumer experience can be made. By engaging populations impacted by health inequities and by assessing factors such as race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, health equity analytics can inform your decision-making as well as guide and refine organizational strategies to increase equities. Analyzing overall health outcomes and how health varies demographically across patient populations can enable your organization to better assess and address factors that fuel health inequities.

Research has shown that a major hindrance to health equity is the challenge of making quality care available to those living in medical deserts. In 2022, Fortune reported that “nearly one of every 10 Americans lives in a medical desert—a place without ready access to emergency care, pharmacies, or sometimes even primary care doctors.” This is why healthcare leaders should prioritize the allocation of resources to support underserved communities and populations. This may include investing in facilities that serve regions with limited healthcare resources, as well as providing accessible apps, online resources, and call center solutions such as telehealth services and nurse advice lines.

By committing to the advancement of health equity and taking action to reduce or eliminate disparities, leaders have the opportunity to make themselves and their organizations agents of change for those who need it the most.

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