It’s been great to see health equity take more of a front row seat recently in the US Healthcare. We are seeing the evolution of new roles in health systems centered around ensuring people have equitable access to inclusive care.
We need to take a more global look at “healthcare” and realize that it is more than the act of being treated in a healthcare facility or even telemedicine. A leading indicator of how healthy you are is actually your zip code. It gives you a perspective on the importance of geography, social status, education and other social determinants in terms of impact on health and wellness, many of which are out of control of the patient.
Globally similar bias exists.
When it comes to technology, recently there was research around skin pigmentation and how it affects pulse ox (https://www.medtechdive.com/news/fda-starts-review-of-how-skin-pigmentation-affects-pulse-oximeter-results/595436/) data.
We know that humans are biased and therefore our data is biased, so if we train an AI using that data and not adjusting for the bias, you end up with a biased AI.
During COVID, we saw the rapid adoption of telemedicine, but most platforms ignored the fact that they had patients whose first language wasn’t English or who were deaf and hard of hearing. The sites weren’t translated and then interpreters were not available on these calls. The result was LEP and deaf patients not using telemedicine as much as their english speaking counterparts. We led the way at Cloudbreak in terms of integrating our services onto those platforms to solve these types of issues.( https://www.cloudbreak.us/resource-library/#case-studies)
Resolving disparities and promoting health equity is a multi-pronged strategy taking a holistic view on what impacts these biases. From addressing food and medical deserts, to improving education, to increasing access to culturally competent care in multiple languages…to understanding that technology if not managed correctly can actually increase the digital divide instead of bridging it (need broadband and smartphone access for all).