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What technology taught me about equality in healthcare

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Tammie Jackson, of the Health Tech World incredible women in health tech 2022 longlist, is a major advocate for diversity in the healthcare sector. Today she shares her insights into technology and the lessons it has taught her about equality…

As someone who has spent much of my career in health care, I have been a witness to the ebbs and flows our industry has experienced as it pertains to technology advancements, health equity, financial implications and more.

The COVID-pandemic took us on a ride from 0 to 90 almost overnight, with seismic shifts in the foundation that, albeit needed, have required a larger amount of time and workforce to get right. Yet despite the many odds that have been thrown our way, be it staffing, inflation, and the like, the word that keeps coming to mind is resiliency

Before we can fully embrace our resilient spirit as health care leaders, we must address the problems head on.  Cost remains to be a huge issue.

Health care, which is defined as “the organised provision of medical care to individuals or a community,” is a $4.1 trillion industry in the United States.

This equates to spending of $12,530 per person. This is largely attributed to the sky-high cost of services and prescription drugs, and data shows that those with the poorest health pay the most.  

Another issue we’ve yet to fully wrap our arms around as an industry is the issue of social determinants of health (SDoH).

These are non-clinical factors that play a large role in a person’s health and wellbeing.

The five we often focus on are: food insecurity, housing insecurity, earnings insecurity, transportation insecurity and social isolation. Each of these five areas plays a significant impact on how a person fits into the overall health care continuum. 

So, with this in mind, what has technology taught me about equity and how resilient we are?

Here are 3 ways:

1 – Data doesn’t lie

Data has the unique ability to zero in on cracks in the foundation. On a granular level, data can tell the story of an individual patient or family situation and provide clues that will enable providers to give the best quality of care they have to offer.

Say for example a patient comes in for their annual checkup but is dehydrated and hungry, unable to remember the last time they had a meal.

The first order of business isn’t to conduct the physical—it’s to ensure they have a full stomach. From a non-clinical perspective, data can also illustrate which patients qualify for financial assistance.

FinThrive’s Propensity to Pay model (P2P) can identify the patient, their insurance coverage, eligibility, and ability to pay before they come through the door.

This allows the provider to pick up on coverage issues quicker and increase charity screenings.

2 – Technology doesn’t replace human touch

While technology has a host of benefits, it will never replace the interactions that we have with the registration staff, nurses, doctors, and countless others who play a vital role in our care journey.

As the pandemic has demonstrated, HIM teams and IT support folks are just as valuable as clinicians. They have been there to answer our questions about patient portals, reset our usernames and passwords, show us how to communicate safely and effectively with our physician on a remote basis, and so much more.

These same folks also recognise that not everyone has broadband internet, so they work with local libraries and county government offices to make sure patients in low-income and rural communities have access to tele-health and RPM devices.

Technology is good, but the moral of the story? Technology is never greater than the people deploying it.

3 – The industry is (and needs) to be bold

Rosa Parks, a visionary who fought long and hard for equality, once said: “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”

If I’ve learned one thing about being a Black female in health care, it’s this—you have to be bold if you want to make changes.

Make a choice, much like Rosa, to fight for what you believe in and don’t give up. SDoH and making care equitable for all is a cause that sets a fire under me and gets me out of the bed in the morning.

If you had told me five years ago that I would be the first Black person to serve as National Chair in HFMA’s 75-year history, I wouldn’t have believed you.

However, it was because of my passions and commitment to bettering myself and our industry that I had the pleasure of being in that space at that time. 

Find your why—for you, it might be maternal mortality, comorbidities in youth or any host of other things. Whatever it is, take a stand. Technology and this community of spirited fighters are on your side.

Don’t miss…

Incredible women in health tech | the 2022 longlist

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