The pandemic has exposed the yawning gaps in health equity globally.
What is health equity? It’s a goal when people, irrespective of their socio-economic status, have access to opportunities and health services to enjoy total health potential.
Healthcare is a fundamental human right and a priority for all – people, governments, businesses, healthcare entities, insurers, digital innovators, and marketers must work together to ensure everyone can access effective healthcare.
From the old paradigm of a profit-driven healthcare ecosystem, we are now under pressure to move to a value-based operating system to eliminate inherent inequalities. Healthcare is about affordability and access, and globally, the lack of synergy between these imperatives perpetuates medicine as the privilege of a few. We must demolish this concept and pave the way for equity as the operating principle of healthcare.
Affordable care is a human birthright. Paying out of pocket debilitates a patient’s physical, emotional, and financial status, counteracting the purpose of healthcare.
Disruptive technologies are loosening strictures and creating more possibilities for treating people more effectively and affordably. Yet, the disparities continue to widen.
The building blocks of health equity
Calling all players in the healthcare ecosystem – businesses, healthcare entities, insurers, digital innovators, and marketers. Your contributions will be the game-changer for creating health equity, and only you can ensure its sustained progress.
You must ensure that every product, technology, and drug reaches as many people as possible.
Building capacity, moving to a cost-efficient and values-based model, and vigorously implementing preventive care are no longer options for hospitals and healthcare centers. For example, understanding healthcare professionals’ needs, a reality enforced by the pandemic, can help optimize the availability and impact of health providers on patients. An overburdened clinical system threatens the professionals and patients who will receive sub-par care and attentiveness.
Though initially, an expense, investing in technology is a long-term assurance for healthcare entities to create efficiency, cost-reduction, and a more significant footprint of effective, trickle-down treatment approaches. Training and solution-embeds in systems and processes must be introduced to upgrade the skills and proficiencies of physicians, surgeons, and other relevant professionals.
Health insurance is pock-marked by unequal offerings, primarily driven by a profit-driven mentality. It has been a massive detriment to large sections of the population. However, there is a slow resurgence of better options.
Public and private organizations are making an increased effort to address health equity. Healthfirst, New York’s largest not-for-profit insurer, is one of them. In addition to Medicaid and Medicare Advantage plans, the company offers long-term care plans, qualified health plans, and individual and small-group plans.
Healthfirst currently serves 1.7 million members from 70 ethnicities across the globe. Through Healthfirst ADVANCE, a collaboration between the company and its 15 founding hospital systems, local providers, and community partners, Healthfirst shares its evidence-based approach to closing gaps in health equity. The organization advocates the health needs of marginalized New York populations whose health and social determinants have adversely affected them.
The collaboration calls for action from other health insurers to address long-standing healthcare system gaps.
Digital health solutions are catching the attention of investors. Venture Capital funding for digital health companies hit a record $29.1 billion in 2021, including more than $0.5 billion for companies targeting social determinants of health.
It calls for more investors and financial institutions to come forward and invest in advancing global health equity.
Technology and life sciences
MedTech start-ups and entrepreneurs are revolutionizing healthcare by bringing wearable devices and portable diagnostic possibilities at macro and micro levels. The most significant advantage of these breakthroughs is penetrability. Populations distanced from healthcare services due to lack of accessibility are now within easy reach of options thanks to digital health innovations.
Babylon, a London-based digital health provider, offers a transformative example of telemedicine’s power. As of December 2021, there are more than 2.6 million registered patients on the Babylon platform, developed in collaboration with the Rwandan government in 2016.
Butterfly Network has developed a $2,000 hand-held ultrasound device that offers an imaging solution to remote and developing areas that cannot afford expensive CT or MRI scanners or X-ray machines. By reducing costs and expanding diagnostic services beyond traditional healthcare settings, portable diagnostics and medical devices are making the first dent in the armor of conventional healthcare.
The pandemic catapulted telemedicine to centerstage, dramatically improving access for populations globally and erasing borders. It helps surmount the limited availability of providers and the costs associated with travel and time away from work which are barriers to rural patient care.
Digital innovators now have a unique opportunity to grasp the nettle of health inequality and create new solutions to uproot entrenched healthcare problems. They must develop and implement digital solutions that align with this goal. Innovations in digital health not only help everyone utilize health solutions, but they also improve patients’ lives, increase the effectiveness of healthcare systems, and positively impact the economy.
A marketing strategy built on patients’ preferences is among the most effective tools to propagate health equity: messaging and communication. It is the bridge between patients and the healthcare system and its set of sub-sets of technology, regulations, policies, and government and private sector strategies. Marketing offers a large and clear window for an individual to get a peek into this often-obscure world.
Crafting information to empower patients across the socio-economic bandwidth is a transformative mission, putting the company firmly in the driver’s seat. It is time marketers ditched the old model of predictable messaging and gave people fresh, innovative, and empowering information crafted as a public service gesture. As many selfless marketing campaigns have shown, it’s all about resonance, and healthcare is pivoted on gaining people’s trust.
Content creators must ensure that educational materials and instructions, such as health literacy, are inclusive of their messaging.
Marketing the right content will accelerate the spread of global health equity. It is worthwhile for healthcare companies to consider hiring a full-service content agency with the domain expertise to voice their mission and vision. A collaborative model of company-agency work leads to faster and more targeted results.
Improvements in global health have contributed to about a third of economic growth in advanced economies over the past century. Sustaining this growth rate requires the efforts of all stakeholders.
The markets have not yet met their massive potential — there are still significant, unmet medical needs in many parts of the world.
It is time we moved to a value-based healthcare model, with concerted efforts to reach, serve, and comfort previously excluded or underrepresented groups.