by Ewelina Wolszyn, September
The global COVID pandemic exposed the vast inequities in healthcare in many countries. In the US the pandemic exacerbated and exposed the magnitude of social and health inequities faced by different racial groups. In April of 2021 the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared –“structural racism rooted in unequal social determinants of health burden”- a public health crisis. The magnitude of the pandemic forced a rapid change in the way healthcare was being delivered and that change is both for the good and forever. In the US it showed how fast the healthcare system can innovate to address pressing needs. According to a study by ZS the in-person patient engagement dynamics shifted dramatically compared to pre-COVID levels. 18 months into COVID face-to-face contact has plateaued at 75% compared to pre-covid levels. This led to a disproportionate and negative impact on poor, elderly and people of color. Many factors are at the root cause including education, unwillingness to engage with healthcare providers, poor nutrition, insurance coverage, physical limitations, transportation, etc.
There is a saying, “The future is here. It just hasn’t been equally distributed yet.”
According to a CDC report, telehealth use increased 154% in the last week of March 2020 as the medical community shutdown access to offices and clinics. The elimination of travel barriers, time constraints, chronic illness and crowded facilities mediated by telehealth positively impacted minority access to healthcare.
Rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) remote diagnosis are transforming the way physicians and hospitals view and provide medical care. Yet, the latest evidence suggests the common practice of race-correction in clinical AI often exacerbates longstanding inequities in health outcomes and the type of health care received by Black Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other medically underserved groups.
Algorithms that correct for race are currently used to inform treatment across specialties, including obstetrics, cardiology, nephrology, and oncology, even though race has not been proven to be a reliable indicator of genetic differences.
Connected health advocates believe that AI and Telehealth will be critical tools to help bridge the racial divide.
From a business perspective, healthcare executives are very enthusiastic about virtual care. One CEO reported that “we are seeing continued sustainability of virtual care solutions which are 10X where they were pre-pandemic.” Certain conditions show 50% utilization of virtual services compared to pre-pandemic use.