How Data Help Physicians Improve Operations and Achieve Health Equity

Publication
Article
Targeted Therapies in OncologyMay I, 2024
Volume 13
Issue 6
Pages: 23

A US health care executive survey found 30% see health equity solely as a social concern. Yet, it's about ensuring everyone has a fair shot at optimal health. Utilizing standardized data can shift care from reactive to preventive, easing strain on systems.

A RECENT SURVEY OF US health care executives stated that 30% believe the case for improving health equity is entirely social, without business motivations.1 At its core, health equity is the state in which everyone has a fair opportunity to attain their highest level of health. When based on standardized, secure, and advanced data insights, equitable health care practices can significantly reduce strain on health care systems by driving preventive action rather than resorting to reactive procedures.

Federal agencies are taking steps to embed systemic health equity practices to fortify the resilience of our nation’s health care system and help all patients in the United States reach optimal health outcomes. CMS implemented new policies for addressing health-related social needs (HRSNs) to treat and understand the needs of the most underserved and chronically ill populations.2

Coordinating care for patients with significant unmet HRSNs can be a complex process that may require consultations with a multidisciplinary team of health care providers and community health workers. Related obstacles include insufficient funding, staffing shortages, and inaccessible treatments. CMS’ new policies will support physicians who help patients identify and connect with the appropriate clinical and community resources to address unmet HRSNs that may influence a patient’s treatment.

Modern information technology (IT) solutions that provide data analysis, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) have a significant role to play as health care providers work to adequately understand these factors. These tools are transformational resources that alleviate tremendous strain on health care providers. Many primary care sites are already deploying these technologies for care coordination to increase provider access and reduce missed appointments.

AI-powered data analysis based on HRSNs can drive these projections and help providers account for external factors that they may not be able to ascertain otherwise. As a result, providers can simultaneously save time and costs while advancing health equity.

When leveraged responsibly, health care data management and analysis can illuminate critical information about a population’s health. For example, advanced data algorithms can expedite resource development and deployment for underserved and socially marginalized communities.

With these insights, diagnoses and treatments can be more preventive than reactive, improving patient outcomes, reducing the burden on providers, and saving costs for the entire health care system. As holistic care becomes more prevalent throughout the health care system, providers will see significant returns on their health investments.

Federal agencies and health care providers are working in collaboration to approach health in a holistic way. Standardized data collection and governance practices are needed to make patient health information transferable, interoperable, and actionable.

It’s paramount that providers and beneficiaries are well educated about HRSNs. Providers should remain up to date on HRSN policies and regulations from federal health agencies and continually explore the latest IT tools and data management services. As providers improve HRSN data acquisition and accuracy, early interventions can be implemented, which will reduce the cost of care.

Providers should inform their beneficiaries about changes in data usage, assure them that their data are being protected, and explain how these changes lead to improved care. Patients should feel empowered to take control of their health. By developing technology to promote health literacy and providing educational opportunities and resources to patients, disparities will be reduced.

Kamala Green is the social drivers of health program manager for National Government Services, and Greg McKinney, MD, MBA, is the chief medical officer of National Government Services.

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