Addressing Health Inequities with Innovation

When healthcare is equitable, its “quality does not vary because of personal characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, geographic location and socioeconomic status”. That’s how the National Academy of Medicine defines health equity, listing it as one of the “six core domains of quality healthcare” that needs to be addressed to improve the US health system.

A growing number of employers see addressing health inequities as part of their organizational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and recognize the negative impact it has on their employees and their businesses. While there is no one solution for this complex problem, digital health innovation offers a promising avenue to a more level playing field. We’ve written about some ways that digital health can improve health care access and even quality to underserved populations, without focusing on equity. Here are two recent examples of employer efforts in this area: 

The Black Community Innovation Coalition is a multi-employer initiative spearheaded by Walmart, in partnership with Included Health, the recent merger of Grand Rounds Health and Doctor on Demand, which aims to address health disparities in the African American community. The goal is to tackle disparities through adoption of a digital health platform incorporating a tailored navigation and advocacy service catering specifically to this group based on employee feedback. The Coalition will utilize employee-led focus groups, market research studies and more to focus on the specific health concerns of the Black community. Since its inception, the Coalition has identified potential impact areas including maternal and fetal health, cardio-metabolic disease, primary care access, and behavioral health issues. As more areas are identified through the research and population health analysis, it will lead to additional tailoring of the digital platform to steer these employees to care they need.

Amazon Web Services is promoting the use of technology to impact health outcomes for underrepresented communities by providing web credits and technical expertise to organizations working to improve health equity. With a global commitment of $40 million, AWS will support efforts made by organizations to increase access to services for underserved communities; address social determinants of health; and use data to promote equitable and inclusive delivery of healthcare. The program has supported  three projects already underway that utilize AWS technologies to advance those objectives.

All of these efforts have the potential to show the power of employer-led innovation to advance healthcare equity and inclusion. Mercer’s recent Health on Demand survey revealed that 80% of employees plan to continue using virtual services to meet their health needs, and employers are moving quickly to take advantage of this important opportunity. The challenge is to ensure that this transformative change ultimately results in better access to health services for Black and other underserved employees, including those who currently lack the level of internet access that makes digital healthcare possible. Initiatives such as those described here offer much for other employers to observe and learn from, and, if successful, to emulate.

Vanessa Uzoh
by Vanessa Uzoh

Associate, Mercer

Register for Mercer US Health News to receive weekly e-mail updates.