Health outcomes have come a long way in the past few decades. However, life expectancy dropped with the onset of the pandemic. And the U.S. ranks at the bottom in healthcare access when compared to countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. Health systems everywhere are grappling with how to reverse these trends — and are placing health equity at the center of this mission.
In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, we speak with Kevin Green, Vice President of Community Health Centers for Ochsner Health, to discuss larger trends that have influenced the industry to focus more on providing equitable care.
COVID renewed the focus on health equity
In the past few years, healthcare has witnessed monumental challenges in patient navigation, workforce retention, and resource sustainability. But COVID, Kevin says, might have been the largest influencer on illuminating health equity as a top priority in most health systems.
“In truth, COVID has been a catalyst … When we began to experience it on such a grand scale — regardless of socio-economic status, regardless of race, regardless of gender identification — we were all faced with the challenge of COVID, equity, and caring for ourselves and those that we love. And through that, I’ve seen an increased focus on ensuring that social determinants of health are mitigated, ensuring health equity for all is a reality, ensuring that health disparities — that have been within systems since the inception of healthcare — are removed,” Kevin explains.
Addressing implicit bias improves health equity across the care continuum
As the emergence of COVID has propelled health equity into the spotlight, so have changing paradigms within the field. Addressing implicit bias, Kevin argues, has accelerated progress in paving a more equitable future — at the bedside and beyond.
Kevin remarks, “I think that the true difference today is our willingness to challenge our implicit biases ... When a person does that and they see something they morally or ethically can not align with, there’s a drive to do something about it. And I believe where our great minds are today — those on the forefront of technological changes, those on the forefront of challenging processes and methods in healthcare … they’re also focused on disparities and want to address them.”
Addressing implicit bias is important for not only interacting with patients, but also for removing technological barriers. “There might be an impression that an individual may not be willing to use technology … so certain opportunities aren’t presented to them. When it’s just not true. There are other challenges in place,” Kevin adds.
With the entire industry reflexively addressing disparities and how people have a role to play in healing — or perpetuating — them, health systems can deliver more equitable care for all and have access to technology designed with everyone in mind.
Leaders should embrace digital health to provide more equitable care
As just about everything goes digital, Kevin suggests innovative healthtech platforms like Memora Health should be embraced as key players in ensuring everyone has equal access to high-quality care.
“When it comes to trends, our growth in technology — utilization of virtual, digital, as well as AI — is a trend that can not be ignored. It’s one that we should embrace as we understand how best to care for these patients … I discuss this with our physicians and American Physician (AP) partners quite often, and there’s a reluctance because there’s uncertainty around the safety, and the connection, and the bonding with our patients. Will those be challenged? Each day, we prove those are not insurmountable challenges. We have to want things to be different.”