New research from Accenture, a professional services company, and HIMSS Market Insights found that the vast majority of U.S. healthcare executives believe equity initiatives are important.
However, only a little more than a third have a specific budget dedicated toward advancing equity agendas, said the research.
Dr. Ankoor Shah, a management consulting principal director and health equity lead at Accenture, discussed these findings at HIMSS22 in Orlando. After the conference, he touched base with Healthcare IT News about the research and how technology can be leveraged to push forward health equity agendas.
Q. What are a few top-level takeaways from the research?
A. Nine out of 10 healthcare executives see health equity as a top business priority, which is an important milestone. However, only 36% have a specific budget to drive those health equity agendas, thus revealing a gap between prioritization and realization.
Advancing health equity actually drives value across key business metrics such as patient satisfaction, provider retention, health outcomes and cost reduction.
By leveraging technology responsibly, we believe that health equity agendas can be advanced quicker.
Q. How do you see technology as potentially negatively impacting health outcomes?
A. Technology that excludes large segments of the population can exacerbate disparities in care access and health outcomes. For example, many provider organizations relied heavily on virtual health services – telemedicine and video calls – when the pandemic began.
However, communities lacking broadband connectivity and digital literacy were left behind.
Q. By contrast, what are a few ways technology can be used to catalyze health equity agendas?
A. Technology can help generate insights into populations affected by health inequities.
For example, Accenture worked with the state of Ohio to combine multiple state-level data sets with publicly available information and applied machine learning techniques to identify women at the highest risk of having an infant die within the first year of life. This insight was then used to provide much-needed services to those families such as nurse home-visiting programs.
Technology can be leveraged to improve care access, quality and patient experience. For example, companies like Violet Health, Spora Health and SameSky Health all use digital health platforms to ensure that patients receive medical care that is both high-quality and culturally competent.
As a result, patients have greater access to providers who recognize and understand their cultural background, needs and challenges.
Q. What are a few examples of concrete steps the C-Suite can take to push forward with health equity initiatives?
A. First, understand where the health inequities currently lurk within their health system. This requires demographic stratification of KPIs they already examine – patient experience [and] satisfaction, patient access, quality of care, health outcomes and cost of care. With a stratification based on race, ethnicity, geography, disability, et cetera, they can then examine where the disparities lie.
Next, implement sustainable programs and processes to reduce disparities, such as by standardizing treatment protocols and rethinking care delivery for a specific population.
It’s important to identify someone who is accountable for those disparity reductions, and to determine the financial incentive structures at the executive level to drive the agenda.
By taking this approach and focusing on reducing disparities of KPIs around access, experience, quality, outcomes and cost, the health equity approach actually drives core business value and significant ROI.
Q. What excites you about the future of health equity?
A. Collectively, it seems all of us in the healthcare industry are focused on bending the arc towards a more just health system, one where everyone has the opportunity to reach their optimal health potential.
We see this in several ways: 90% of healthcare executives prioritizing health equity, according to our survey; healthcare companies hiring senior directors to drive health equity; accreditation bodies such as NCQA developing health equity accreditations; and state and federal regulators increasingly focusing on advancing health equity.
Now we just have to figure out how to work together, optimize technology to be a catalyst, and make health equity a reality.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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