Techquity – Leave no patient behind
Efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion are expanding in all areas of healthcare, but as healthcare organizations (HCOs) continue to transform digitally there is a real potential for new technologies to leave some patients behind. This has turned the spotlight on techquity, the idea that technology can be designed and implemented to allow all patients to access and receive high quality care – health equity – while not making equity gaps and health disparities any worse.
According to a 2023 benchmarking survey conducted by the Techquity for Health Coalition found to-thirds of the healthcare organization respondents were already doing something to address equity, health equity and/or techquity. For the other one-third, the primary challenges to getting started are lack of knowledge, commitment, and/or resources.
Among the other key survey takeaways, trends in how HCOs are addressing these issues include developing community-based partnerships, focusing on the user-friendliness of digital solutions in the design stage, improving awareness and educational materials, and increasing support of Medicare/Medicaid, rural, and BIPOC communities.
However, HCOs are not sure if their early efforts are making enough of an impact, putting more urgency on creating more effective metrics. They are not confident in their ability to leverage data and technology tools to effectively understand underserved patient populations and address health disparities. Areas of improvement identified by the survey include not only having more industry leaders with decision-making authority champion equity/techquity and use their decision-making authority effect and incent change, but also to implement reliable patient-industry feedback mechanisms and put techquity into the design process for new digital solutions.
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The survey was released in conjunction with ViVE 2023, a digital health event coproduced by HLTH and CHIME. In addition to a session discussing the survey results, ViVE 2023 was filled with techquity talk, from the importance of making equity/techquity a cultural and financial priority, and the trend of forming community partnerships to boost data quality and sharing, to the value of policies that break down barriers to techquity, and the need for a new standard of care to ensure use of emerging tech like AI and machine learning considers the potential for bias and further disparity.
The recent rise of ChatGPT, Bard and other open AI platforms sparked many conversations about the potential for generative AI to utilize data, including geographic and social determinants of health (SDOH) info, to improve health equity and techquity.
In the buzz around techquity, a few key focus areas rose to the top.
- Access to tech – The goal is to ensure equal access to digital health technology even for patients who don’t have the required devices and connectivity.
- Do no harm – To avoid making disparities worse, bias must be minimized in AI, machine learning and data analysis models.
- Techquity baked in – To consistently and effectively address techquity, the design and development of digital health solutions should always consider the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) needs of patients.
A pathway to techquity is taking shape. Once the idea of equity becomes a priority and a part of an organization’s culture, once investment and commitment to factoring DEI into tech design and deployment become best practices, once new metrics and standards of care are unleashed, only then can community partnerships and other data-rich collectives pair with technologies such as generative AI, machine learning, and remote care to start making techquity a reality and providing all patients with high quality health care.
Divurgent is a solutions provider committed to healthcare IT evolution, and the strategies and processes that make it possible. It helps hospitals, health systems, and affiliated providers with payment and delivery reform, operational efficiency, patient engagement, and raising the quality and lowering the cost of care to improve outcomes towards healthier communities.