Key Takeaways

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Across the intricate healthcare ecosystem, one challenge stands out as one of the most complex: providing equitable care

One reason it’s so complicated is that it encompasses more than just providing medical services. It demands a commitment to dismantling barriers, addressing disparities, and extending assistance outside of the four walls of the hospital.

In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, our guest Rick Moreland, founder of healthcare consulting firm Modality Global Advisors and former Chief Operating Officer of Dignity Health, discusses the barriers to care access, how they tie into expanding opportunities within the healthcare workforce, and the role AI can play in supporting accessible care delivery.

Expanding access to care is complex — and not everyone faces the same challenges

There’s no question healthcare has an access problem. Take people who live in rural communities. They saw over 100 hospitals close in their areas from 2013 to 2020. And they often have to travel over 20 miles just to see a primary care provider.

Location is just one aspect that could block patients from accessible care. Some patients might encounter issues related to securing a timely appointment, whereas others might have trouble finding transportation to their doctor visits. Moreland remarks, “For some groups of patients, transportation is tough — that is, accessing healthcare from the outside in.”

To effectively assist patients in overcoming these hurdles, Moreland suggests providers need to critically think about how patients experience these friction points — and implement practical strategies to address them. 

He expands, “How we treat our patients in terms of meeting them where they’re at and with what they need to access healthcare is important. Whether it’s text registration, pre-registration, or having labs done closer to home — especially if they’re traveling [for care].”

That’s why forward-thinking technologies like Memora Health’s intelligent care enablement platform engages individuals where they are through SMS — patients’ most-preferred communication channel and one that doesn’t require internet access. 

Beyond patient access, healthcare also needs to consider worker barriers

Patients aren’t the only ones who encounter barriers when it comes to the world of healthcare. Much of what goes into providing equitable care is also about opening the door for talented workers to enter the field. 

But that’s easier said than done. Resident doctors often report a lack of home programs or fellowships of interest, presenting significant difficulties for aspiring medical professionals. And with a third of healthcare workers planning to leave their jobs over the next year, getting this issue right couldn’t be more urgent. 

Moreland suggests one way to address this challenge is to expand beyond the scope of educational institutions. He explains, “Healthcare delivery systems have to partner better and differently in terms of access for [resident doctors], as well as specialty residency programs that are both in and out of the traditional academic facilities … that helps us keep residents who might be from rural areas to serve patients.”

However, Moreland proposes that efforts also need to go beyond the health system level to public policy, stating, “Allowing access for nurses to grow in our facilities also remains extremely important … Most of us are so used to whatever new nurse program spots [open up], but partnering with local officials to fund more and more nurse spots and allowing them access to the system to grow and stay [is really key].”

Using AI to reinforce patient-provider relationships

Over the past several years, everything from patient expectations of care to how healthcare professionals experience their work environment have witnessed drastic shifts. And many of these transformations have revealed the importance of patient-provider relationships.

Moreland explains, “The patients and our physicians are our customers. We need to look at it in that light. Without our patients, without our physicians, without our [advanced practice providers], we don’t have healthcare delivery. We need one another.”

So, how does healthcare reinforce these relationships? That’s where, Moreland suggests, AI in healthcare can help significantly. “You still can not replace a person delivering care. You can’t replace someone sitting at the bedside, holding your hand,” he explains. Rather, Moreland proposes intelligent technology can be used to clear some of the administrative burden from medical professionals to encourage more frequent and fulfilling interactions. He adds, “AI is gonna make certain aspects of care delivery easier … More recently, I’ve seen it used in terms of finding errors in clinical documentation.”

Ready to learn more about AI in healthcare? Download our whitepaper.

When it comes to delivering equitable care, there isn’t one “Aha!” moment that will level the playing field. Healthcare organizations will need to consistently assess and reconceptualize their efforts to align with the distinct needs of the communities they serve. By considering both patients and doctors as consumer bases, cracking open the door to more workforce opportunities, and using digital health technology in the right areas, providers can establish a more solid foundation for effectively expanding access to care.