Skip to Content

Health Inequities and the Path Ahead: Panel Shares Small Steps Organizations Can Take to Enable Better Patient Representation and Outcomes

“Health Inequities and the Path Ahead: Panel Shares Small Steps Organizations Can Take to Enable Better Patient Representation and Outcomes” by Laurie Halloran was originally published in MedTech Intelligence. Click here to read the original article.

MedExecWomen board President, Helen Routh, noted at a recent conference: “Innovation in healthcare, particularly post-COVID, requires us to work across industry sectors, alongside clinicians and payers.” Laurie Halloran, president & CEO of Halloran Consultant Group shares insights she heard from a panel of strong female leaders on how the industry can take action to improve health inequities, which will be an ongoing topic at future conferences.

This past year, I attended a conference of which I’m a co-founder, “Medical Innovation in a Post-COVID World,” filled with panels and fireside chats that covered an array of medtech industry topics. One panel at the event, with Camille Chang Gilmore, MBA, vice president, Human Resources and global chief diversity, equity, & inclusion officer at Boston Scientific; Christine Jackson, senior director, Health Economics, Policy & Reimbursement at Medtronic; and Chelsey Berstler, vice president, Affordability, Government Programs at UnitedHealth Group, illuminated the health inequities that exist in life sciences and spoke movingly about healthcare disparities. While the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted health inequities, statistics indicate that minority groups have consistently been disadvantaged within the healthcare system. These numbers reveal numerous factors that all combine to decreased patient outcomes, and therefore, awareness of these disparities is essential to taking action to improve these outcomes as an industry.

The panel provided a thoughtful, informative discussion, leaving conference attendees, including me, with critical reminders about the prevalence of health inequities in the U.S. healthcare system, and tangible ways to address these inequities within their organizations to provide better experiences for patients, more accurate and unified patient representation, and ultimately, to achieve better patient and clinical trial outcomes.

Health Inequities at-a-Glance

When looking at healthcare provider representation and access to treatment, the statistics around the disadvantages of minority groups are staggering. And even more so, the impact of these gaps on patients needs to be examined because that understanding may drive change at an organization level, and over time, collectively at an industry level.

Here is a snapshot of the data:

These statistics are just a few examples of the inequities that exist within the healthcare system, which can lead to unnecessary suffering and even loss of life. The themes extracted from this data include a lack of access, not feeling understood, and mistreatment. The severity of these impacts on patients and on the healthcare system makes it essential for all organizations operating in this field to delve into these data, educate their organizations and promote awareness, and establish initiatives in their organization to move conversations into action to drive change.

Small Steps Can Lead to Substantial Impacts

An important first step organizations can take to address health inequities is to establish the company’s commitment to the cause. This commitment is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather, there are options to consider. Here are a handful of examples that may lead to tangible results:

While the overall goals are the same, programs to address health inequities will vary by organization. A panelist shared an example of their organization’s “close the gap” initiative and the context behind the mission to bring tangible examples to life, providing attendees with ideas of how they too can take part in the bigger mission. For example, a component in the organization’s initiative is the use of data specific to ZIP codes; data in particular ZIP codes are used to inform healthcare providers of the prevalence of diseases in those geographic regions, as well as the available opportunities for treatment, making those providers and the communities they serve feel seen and heard.

In summary, that organization’s initiative is committed to making sure everyone is allowed an equal opportunity to receive the quality healthcare they deserve, and simultaneously, this knowledge can be used to make better informed decisions on behalf of providers and patients.

The Path Forward

With these examples, organization leaders can use their influence to initiate change and establish small steps to enable big changes to achieve better patient representation and outcomes. These steps range from a CEO action pledge, building core values, designing employee behavior blueprints, and educational tools. As these organizations move forward in their journey toward equity, it’s important not to lose sight of their long-term mission even if some initiatives are met with hesitation and some results are slow to progress. As one of the panelists stated so eloquently “diversity is a given, inclusion is a choice, equity is a goal. Belonging is our ultimate end point.”