Health equity has long been recognized as an elemental step in the movement towards a higher standard of care. In addition to building a more vibrant and equitable society, eliminating disparities also plays a key role in reducing rampant healthcare spend. In 2018, inequity-related avoidable medical costs totaled approximately $93 billion (Turner, 2018). Factoring in lost productivity, gaps in healthcare quality put a $135 billion hole in the 2018 U.S. economy (Turner, 2018).
The deep impact of these health disparities will only continue to grow if strategic and tactical interventions are not put into place. A recent survey of five hundred health equity leaders from all sides of the healthcare industry reported that, above all, organizations are laser-focused on improving access and quality of care (Garfield, 2023).
Digital health solutions stand at the center of many of these equity discussions. The ability to connect with the right clinicians from home ungates convenient, cost-effective, and high-value treatment for hundreds of thousands of patients who normally would struggle to access care.
Closing the gaps in healthcare quality and access
Thanks to the fortuitous pairing of the Digital Revolution with pandemic-induced healthcare adaptations, digital solutions are widely accepted in patient and clinician circles alike. These solutions foster an unprecedented opportunity to increase equity within healthcare delivery.
According to an American Medical Association survey, 80 percent of clinicians report that telehealth expands access to care, and 60 percent attribute an elevated level of care to digital health enablement (AMA, 2022). These data reflect the ability of digital health to overcome traditional barriers to care, including the cost of transportation, time off from work, childcare, and medical expenses.
In the rural setting, digital health substantially increases access to high-quality care in areas facing a severe shortage of medical specialists (only five percent of the country’s specialists practice in rural areas) (Kwan, 2017). Without adequate access to care, patients in rural communities are more likely to forgo preventive care or early interventions for disease management, opening the door for more serious and high-cost complications to develop (Arpey, 2017). Digital health solutions work in direct opposition to these roadblocks, leveling the healthcare playing field with convenient, accessible, and cost-effective alternatives that provide the same top-quality care to all patients.
Next steps to accelerate progress
Despite clear signs of equity improvement, virtual care adoption is not ubiquitous across the country. Some of the original challenges—including cost and access—simply transferred to the digital space and still persist for many patients. Digital determinants of health (DDOH), like social determinants of health, often work behind the scenes to counteract equity initiatives. Top challenges include digital literacy, individual and community attitudes toward digital health solutions, and access to technology and the internet (Richardson, 2022). As a result, low-income communities that often disproportionately face these challenges are less likely to use digital health solutions than their median-income counterparts (Eastburn, 2023).
The industry must continue to overcome these roadblocks, both old and new, that hold back initiatives striving for equitable healthcare for all. As we gain a more comprehensive understanding of the forces driving these disparities, the obligation to intervene no longer lies with just sociopolitical leaders. Leaders in every industry must respond to the call to action and set health equity initiatives in motion. Indeed, commercial payers face the greatest need for policy changes to encourage more widespread utilization (Eastburn, 2023). By overcoming these DDOH with greater financial and health incentives, such as inclusive insurance coverage and affordable cost-sharing charges, industry leaders can turn the tides in favor of digital health solutions.
As a trusted digital health provider, Vori Health is on a mission to overcome healthcare disparities by transforming MSK care delivery. The Vori team knew there was a better way to care for MSK patients than the traditional cycle of never-ending office visits and high-cost interventions—which were only accessible to some. Under the direction of co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Mary O’ Connor, MD, a renowned leader in health equity, Vori patients can connect with an expert doctor-led care team and receive personalized and appropriate non-surgical care—all at the click of a button.
Every individual deserves access to the right care and the opportunity to achieve the best outcomes possible. Learn more about how our solutions unlock equitable access to high-quality, appropriate MSK care for your members.
- Turner, 2018: Turner A. (2018). The Business Case for Racial Equity: A Strategy for Growth. W.K. Kellogg Foundation, https://altarum.org/sites/default/files/uploaded-publication-files/WKKellogg_Business-Case-Racial-Equity_National-Report_2018.pdf
- Garfield, 2023: Garfield S, Aluko Y, Minta B, Hildreth C, Kasen P. (2023, January 9). 2023 Health Equity Outlook Report. EY, https://www.ey.com/en_us/health/health-equity-outlook-report
- AMA, 2022: 2021 Telehealth Survey Report. (2022). American Medical Association, https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/telehealth-survey-report.pdf
- Kwan, 2017: Kwan MMS, Kondalsamy-Chennakesavan S, Ranmuthugala G, Toombs MR, Nicholson GC. The rural pipeline to longer-term rural practice: General practitioners and specialists. PloS ONE 2017;12(7):e0180394.
- Arpey, 2017: Arpey NC, Gaglioti AH, Rosenbaum ME. How Socioeconomic Status Affects Patient Perceptions of Health Care: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health 2017;8(3):115-187.
- Eastburn, 2023: Eastburn J, Harris A, Nagarajan N, Rost J. (2023, January 9). Is virtual care delivering on its promise of improving access? McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/is-virtual-care-delivering-on-its-promise-of-improving-access
- Richardson, 2022: Richardson S, Lawrence K, Schoenthaler AM, Mann D. A framework for digital health equity. npj Digital Medicine 2022;5(19).
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