By Emma Gosselin
Health equity was top of mind for many attendees at this year’s HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition, which took place March 14-18 in Orlando, Florida. Health equity is a human rights issue spotlighting the challenges and disparities that people face as they try to live healthy lives.
While speakers introduced many potential solutions to improve health equity throughout the event, telehealth and home health care seemed to have had the most momentum.
As we’ll dig into below, these historically untraditional care delivery methods are seeing rapid adoption. Both telehealth and home health care could address health equity by expanding access to care and offering some much-needed improvements to the current healthcare ecosystem.
Telehealth can improve health equity but also needs improvement
Walking around the booths at HIMSS, we saw several announcements related to telemedicine, including:
HIMSS had many programs dedicated to telehealth throughout the week. These programs centered not only on the development and adoption of telehealth solutions but also on how telehealth can improve efficiency and quality of care for patients.
Since patients only need a device with an internet connection to meet with a healthcare provider, it’s no surprise that telehealth has helped reduce barriers to healthcare. With telehealth, patients who do not have reliable transportation, a strong immune system, money to travel or time to travel can still access care virtually.
It's necessary to note that although telehealth has many benefits, it is not a perfect solution. There are still accessibility issues with telehealth, as many people do not have expensive devices, a secure internet connection or digital literacy.
Take, for example, the booth, “Delivering Equitable Digital Healthcare Solutions.” This booth demonstrated how 19 million people in the U.S. do not have a reliable internet connection. Connectivity solutions for digital inequity are critical to effectively serve disadvantaged, elderly and vulnerable populations.
Moving forward, we expect to see companies develop telehealth with more accessible features, like speech recognition, to be more inclusive and equitable.
Home health care can also play a role in improving health equity
Home health care is critical to improving health equity, as it addresses several social determinants of health (SDOH), including aging, transportation and social inclusion.
HIMSS 2022 also saw multiple companies make announcements related to home health care, including:
- VeeOne Health's new patient-facing mobile app, VeeGo 360, for remote patient monitoring
- Perigon Health 360’s latest release to its Medesto Health Enterprise Drug and Monitoring platform to redefine remote patient care
- GE Healthcare’s partnership with AliveCor to integrate remote cardiac monitoring devices from AliveCor with GE Healthcare’s MUSE cardiac management system
Remote patient monitoring (RPM), which is integral to home health care, also took the stage at HIMSS. For example, “Building a Continuous Remote Patient Monitoring Program” discussed how RPM can decrease hospital utilization.
Multiple programs discussed the impact of home health care on diverse patient populations, including the Hospital @ Home Series. In particular, “Embracing Patient Engagement with Hospital at Home” explored the challenges and opportunities of hospital at home, such as increasing patient engagement and orienting the care team to the patient and family center.
By 2030, more than 20% of people in the U.S. will be 65 years or older. As a result, home health care will be increasingly important for elderly individuals and Medicare beneficiaries. Thanks to the increasing prevalence of home health care, patients who are unable to leave their homes due to age or disability can receive quality care for illnesses, injuries or procedures.
Additionally, home health care improves healthcare options for patients living in rural or less accessible areas. A study from the National Institute of Health found that only 9% of physicians practiced in rural areas, while 20% of the U.S. population resides in rural areas. Home health agencies account for this discrepancy by providing care to vulnerable areas.
Home health care also has a more diverse workforce than urgent care centers or hospitals. Culturally-competent care is critical to health equity because it increases trust, communication, understanding and quality of treatment.
The impact of interoperability on health equity
Both telehealth and home health care leverage the significant advances that the industry is seeing in interoperability, which was another major topic at HIMSS 2022.
Many companies announced new services that promote interoperability, and there were also numerous programs dedicated to interoperability. Some of the more interesting announcements were:
- Smile CDR’s program, Smile CDR Data Fabric, that uses interoperability to detect human trafficking and ultimately improve patient outcomes
- NextGen Healthcare’s collection of solutions focused on “interoperability with a purpose” to improve access, provider burnout and integrated, whole-person care
- Health Gorilla’s partnership with Lexis Nexis to include social determinants of health data in its interoperability platform
This year’s announcements show that many companies have recently leveraged interoperability to not only improve data sharing but also enhance patient lives.
As reflected in the announcements, interoperability can improve health equity by identifying human trafficking, expanding access and recording and sharing SDOH data across EHR and EMR systems. Each of these efforts can potentially reduce health disparities.
As healthcare organizations strive for health equity, the healthcare space is sure to continue changing and progressing. Healthcare commercial intelligence can help you stay in tune with the most current healthcare industry developments.
If you missed us at HIMSS 2022 or want to explore how you can leverage Definitive Healthcare's intelligence to create commercial success, start a free trial today!