Three turbulent years have taken Equitable Healthcare from a topic of infrequent debate to a pronounced matter of concern for every health system.
In the past, medical conferences may have included the occasional talk on equitable delivery. Now, most organizations curate multiple speakers to shed light on this perplexing problem.
Perplexing though it may be, I am optimistic there is finally a critical mass of people and organizations who believe in the possibility of real change.
Fair Access to High-level Medical Care
Equitable Healthcare provokes a range of thoughts and emotions, and people respond in diverse ways to the problem’s complexity.
Some providers cling to the belief that electronic health records companies will eventually provide solutions. But in my experience, most systems are in a data collection mode—not a solving one. This issue merits a more urgent search for comprehensive solutions.
Underserved Patients Are Worth the Cost
The approximately 20% of patients who are underserved are worth our consideration and resources. Naturally, mitigation of costs will be essential. Even the most fair-minded health system cannot feasibly embrace profligate spending.
But if electronic health records do not meet this pressing need, then what is the way forward?
Choosing a Worthy Aim
To my mind, fair access to high-level medical care is a worthy place to set our sights as we commit to this journey.
The ideal solution should cover multiple service lines, and it should solve for Social Determinants of Health in a seamless and comprehensive way.
Simplifying a Seemingly Unsolvable Problem
We need to break down this seemingly unsolvable problem into manageable solutions.
Looked at in this light, creating truly equitable delivery of healthcare comes down to asking questions and providing answers. It’s about data and logistics.
For example, instead of studying a population by zip code, why not ask patients in an entire service line if they are having issues with food security, access to healthcare, or transportation? If the patient answers "yes," then a solution needs to be in place to provide food, support, or transportation to that patient in a cost-neutral way.
Taking a Focused Look at Social Determinants of Health
If healthcare costs are complex, Social Determinants of Health are even more so. It is essential that we identify solvable elements clearly, or we risk becoming bogged down, or worse, blaming complexity for our inaction.
Let us therefore ask clear questions around Social Determinants of Health. Let us pursue patient-centric answers for those who need it.