The buzz of health equity is on every headline, every conference agenda, and every healthcare website across the industry. And, for good measure - health equity has become a major concern for not just healthcare payers and providers, but for government leaders, patients, and society at large.
Health equity refers to the concept of every individual having equal, equitable access to high-quality care, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity. At the same time, health equity recognizes that each individual has different circumstances, and allocates the right resources and opportunities for each individual to achieve better health.
One of the most powerful tools in achieving health equity is healthcare analytics, and there’s no doubt that the health industry is shifting rapidly to adopt analytics that prioritize the patient and prioritize the health of each specific patient. But are we moving fast enough? Are we adopting the right analytics and technology to inform policy and deliver meaningful change?
Right now, the answers to most of those questions is a defined “no” in many cases. The industry is struggling to convert the positive energy into comprehensive, sustainable health equity programs. To drive action, healthcare executives industrywide must start leaning into these 3 steps:
First, understand the current landscape:
Healthcare analytics can help identify numerous health disparities - such as gaps in preventive care, access to care and treatment facilities, and prevalence of chronic diseases - while also tracking population health trends over time. With detailed analytics, providers can prioritize resources to meet the needs of diverse populations, and payers can better understand the needs of their members.
By diving into population-level and patient-level data, organizations can use analytics to identify the most significant disparities and design targeted interventions to address them. Once you have this information, you’ll be able to understand the current need and create a plan to attack the challenges that patients and members are facing.
And then build your analytics-based equity plan
If you’ve already analyzed your patients, members, and your communities, you’re halfway there on the road to building your health equity plan. Before implementing analytics specific to health equity programs, CMOs, CIOs, and Health Equity Officers should define their goals and outcomes based on the challenges uncovered in analyzing the current disparity landscape.
Is your organization trying to implement new value-based care programs? Understanding value-based payment models and using advanced analytics to help optimize costs is crucial to ensuring equitable cost structures for patients.
Are you trying to shift your readmission rates in underserved populations? Use analytics to classify populations into cohorts, and then tailor care to meet and exceed quality and health outcome measures.
Or are you trying to understand the overall health of the population that you serve to inform future resource planning? Using analytics to understand geo mapping and disease prevalence translates to a better understanding of care needs – and gaps – for patients and members.
The opportunity to positively impact health equity is enormous, but we cannot tackle every aspect at once. Identify your challenges and build your analytics-based equity strategy accordingly. And don’t forget – collaboration across the industry is key, especially when thinking through partnerships, your organizational alignment, and the long-term goals of your organization.
But don’t forget about the data
Analytics are only as good as the data they are based on, and your equity strategy won’t achieve full potential without timely and accurate data. Healthcare executives must ensure data is in place to guide and continuously optimize their strategy. Ensuring data integrity, standardizing it, and using governance standards and methodologies is vital.
Beyond the integrity of the data, the ability to understand, interpret, and act on the data is equally as important. Healthcare leaders must rely on analytics platforms that are interoperable, explainable, and based in ethical, trustworthy use. In fact, without the ethical use of this data, health equity itself – and the patient lives that would be improved by health equity programs - is at risk.
If we want to drive towards health equity and make an impact on a greater scale – and at greater speed – healthcare analytics are a must-have. Healthcare leaders need to prioritize health equity as much as they prioritize clinical outcomes. And CMOs, CIOs, and health equity officers must understand how to leverage healthcare analytics to deliver care services that address health disparities and benefit all patients.
Ready to learn more about how SAS can enable your health equity strategy? Meet us at AHIP.