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Improving healthcare access can improve the health of all your employees

By Dr. Anupam Goel | November 29, 2022 | 4 min read

Health disparities, rooted in discrimination and driven by inequities, have been a part of America for decades. Modern day employers must seize the opportunity to uncover and address these problems. By taking an inclusive and proactive approach to healthcare, employers can improve the health of all their employee segments, including those in marginalized communities. 

Recognizing healthcare barriers 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that healthcare disparities are “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.”[1] Multiple studies detail widespread healthcare disparities based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or other characteristics. For instance, a member of the Black, Indigenous and people of color [BIPOC] and/or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer [LGBTQ+] communities may face barriers to getting healthcare. This may be due to economic, logistic, educational, safety or health care system factors, all of which may be inextricably linked. In addition, even if a person from these communities is able to access healthcare, the care they receive may be different based on how they look or identify. 

Minority status based on socioeconomic class — which is separate from minority status based on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation — can also adversely affect health.[2] It’s also important to note that not all members of lower socioeconomic classes face the same challenges, which means that the urban poor may face different challenges than the rural poor.  

Due to a lack of transportation, 3.6 million Americans do not receive medical care.[3] Many more cannot afford their medications. Even medication copayments as low as $5 have been shown to reduce medication adherence. For most of the 20th century, non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and congestive heart failure have increasingly caused lower quality-of-life and shorter lifespans. These conditions improve with closer monitoring and frequent medication adjustment, which are more likely to happen when people have access to care. 

Creating improved healthcare access  

A recent New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst article stated that the U.S. healthcare system has made some progress in delivering care that is safe, efficient, effective, timely and patient-centered. However, healthcare equity still “lags behind.”[4] Addressing healthcare disparities is important for individual patients and for employee populations. To reduce health disparities, employers need concrete, actionable ways to help their employees address barriers to healthcare.  

Accolade’s Personalized Healthcare solutions allow employers to address healthcare disparities from both an individual equity and population health viewpoint. Organizations that believe equity is a core value among their employees are more likely to activate workers who believe in that mission. Engaged workers are more likely to stay at companies that support their beliefs about equity and better health for all.  

Using a multi-step process, Personalized Healthcare solutions can tailor a unique care plan. First, Accolade uses claims data and neighborhood-level information to understand what medical and social factors might be influencing a person’s health behaviors. Then, Accolade’s Front-line Care Team interacts with the member to better understand any other factors that might affect their ability to initiate or maintain behaviors that maximize their own health. In some cases, members may not understand the benefits of particular medications. In others, offering telemedicine instead of face-to-face visits may better support a member’s chronic disease management. By forming a deeper understanding of contextual challenges, our team is prepared to help people overcome obstacles and access the healthcare they need.

Help marginalized groups realize their full health potential 

The CDC considers health equity as the state when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” We at Accolade believe health equity is a pre-requisite for improved healthcare quality for all and that Personalized Healthcare can help support individuals regardless of what barriers they face in achieving their best health.  

To learn more about Personalized Healthcare solutions and what they can do for your entire organization, contact Accolade.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/

[2] https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/beyond-health-care-the-role-of-social-determinants-in-promoting-health-and-health-equity/ 

[3] http://www.hpoe.org/Reports-HPOE/2017/sdoh-transportation-role-of-hospitals.pdf

[4] https://catalyst.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/CAT.17.0556

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