It’s probably no surprise that we at Kno2 are not only passionate about democratizing access to healthcare communication to all providers, but we are also all up in there when it comes to conversations about addressing health inequities for patients as well. We were recently published in Physicians Practice, highlighting six ways that providers can immediately make a difference when it comes to health equity in medicine. There’s no silver bullet for combating some of the very real issues that make leveling the playing field, so to speak, really challenging for patients across the care continuum, but when we collectively move the needle via awareness and micro interactions that bolster better, honest data, we’re doing the good work to better serve patients and the providers serving them.
Let’s look at a few of those tips for physicians who want to tackle health inequality today…
- How you ask is as important as what you ask – Social determinants of health are at times difficult to address because they aren’t always visible to the blind eye. To address a need, you must first identify it. You must know about it. There have been screenings as part of patient visits for years now, so there’s no shortage of data, but it’s clear that we’re missing something when patients are struggling to show up and comply…and not for a lack of willingness to do so! How questions are phrased, the body language used by providers or staff when they’re asked, even the speed at which such questions are asked can have an impact on the quality and relevance of data. So, remember, this isn’t just data to satisfy an EHR form…this is an opportunity to see someone and provide needed resources.
- Assumptions and biases must be called-out – Physicians must be aware of where they are harboring biases that impede their ability to meet patients where they are. This is an ongoing need as medical models and training programs adapt to what is needed on the front lines, so it’s vital to put that mirror up and ensure providers are being honest with how they show up to the point-of-care.
- Healthcare is increasingly relational – Trust matters. The willingness for a patient to open up about social and behavioral challenges, and/or accept help when it is offered, has everything to do with the context and their relationship with their caregivers. Improving connectivity for Home Health Services, for example, has been a great way to capitalize on the strong relationships fostered when care happens in a patient’s home. There is often a greater sense of trust and awareness, so these are key providers in this aspect.
- Technology has to move with the needs – We’ve talked before about the need for patient-centered technology, and that is true more so than ever when we look at the social determinants of health and striving toward health equity. We can’t expect disparate systems, disconnected providers, and wonky workflows to paint the picture of a person who needs care, medical and/or otherwise. Healthcare IT vendors must meet the call to consider this data vital and work to make solutions that give actionable insights to busy providers so they can actually do something with that information.
There’s still a lot of work to be done to tackle health inequities across the country and care settings, but keeping these conversations and efforts top of mind will go a long way in elevating physicians and patients toward a better tomorrow.
The content from this blog was inspired by a panel Kno2 hosted as part of the Civitas Networks for Health 2022 Annual Conference, in collaboration with DirectTrust™ within a track dedicated to the sharing of health data to advance health equity. Click here to access the full panel discussion.