Tackling Health Disparities: One Size Won’t Fit All

The patient experience has become a major driver in addressing health disparities. But it is necessary to fully understand each patient’s environmental factors and individual needs to be able to co-create a sustainable wellness plan.

Gayle Deadwyler is one of the many Health Care Partners at Cleveland Clinic who works to create a more equitable care delivery system. “For a lot of people, it’s not as easy as it might seem. We have to put some thought into what we ask patients to do. For someone who is maybe losing money because they had to take time off work to go to an appointment, we have to take all of that into consideration and be mindful of it even if we can’t solve it.”

While changes like telemedicine happened at lightning speed, a key part of patient experience is asking the question, does it work for everybody? Jen Horonjeff, PhD, is a patient advocate and the founder and CEO of Savvy Cooperative, a patient-owned co-op facilitating collaboration in healthcare innovations. She firmly believes the future of healthcare is co-designed with patients.

“That's a challenge when you get a bunch of people saying [telemedicine] is the solution, when we haven't had the luxury of time to be able to go to those communities and talk with them... We need to deploy something, get feedback, and then be able to learn… and it is going to look different for different types of communities.”

Chrissy Daniels is chief experience officer with Press Ganey, an organization that is helping healthcare providers to understand and improve delivery of care. She describes COVID-19 as the most disruptive innovation that’s ever happened to patient experience and cautions to never let a good crisis go to waste.

“Because patient needs are changing so fast, we've had to really think about how do we not only gather feedback from patients, but how do we support more input? I'm a huge believer in co-design with patients. It's a bedrock of innovation for me. So during this pandemic, we created very intelligent and precise ways to gather more patient voices.”

Daniels sees emerging trends that include asking patients about vaccination readiness and seeking patient perspectives on telemedicine. “We have to admit that we are very likely not asking the right questions to tackle equity. How is it that we revisit our feedback and input instruments to bring meaningful issues to these populations and have them help us understand?”

Black patients are often underrepresented in survey responses due to their lack of trust in healthcare systems. Daniels cites the fact that many organizations don’t collect sufficient data on race or ethnicity for a national level of analysis—but is optimistic about changes she sees happening at places like NewYork-Presbyterian and Cleveland Clinic.

And Dr. Horonjeff notes the need to tackle health disparities is throughout the health ecosystem, with people of color often underrepresented in clinical trials. “We need to regain their trust through a variety of different touchpoints that they may be comfortable with, be it a survey, be it interviews, or focus groups, or co-design opportunities. If you can humanize it, then people start to understand that there are individuals working to make change.”

 

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