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The Healthcare of the Future: Equity and Access

If the sold-out “Healthcare of the Future” event presented by Puget Sound Business Journal, is any indication, Seattle is ready for healthcare transformation. Last week’s event at the Fairmont Olympic featured prominent local healthcare leaders discussing equity and access to care, and why Seattle is the right community to deliver.

Healthcare of the Future

Interesting, the panel discussion started with a definition of access, framed as not just being able to receive care, but also to navigate and understand care. Speakers mentioned that in the transition from uninsured to insured, people might now have access to care but not enough health literacy to receive care. This was exemplified when one of the panelists, a physician herself talked about a recent experience with getting care for her son where she navigated multiple providers and care settings, and all the while had a firm handle on who she was talking to, why her concerns were important, and the eventual diagnosis.

You can see examples of this everyday on #medtwitter when physicians or other healthcare professionals talk about how hard it was for them to navigate the system as caregivers for their families. Now, just imagine that you’ve never had healthcare coverage before. How do you know what your options are, how much you may have to pay, or when and where to see a doctor?

Panelists also felt that in addition to access, health equity needed to include helping patients make decisions based on their own values, not the values of the system. Again, a difficult situation to navigate for someone new to the system, or potentially being intimidated by the ‘white coat.’ Equity also looks at whether anyone is being left behind in the system, which could be from a myriad of reasons: language, cultural, or even geographical barriers. Given the problems of staffing rural clinics and hospitals, are people in remote areas able to receive the same level of care as those in the cities?

Unsurprisingly, panelists were bullish on Seattle’s ability to deliver, both from the collaborative nature of the healthcare organizations in the region, and from our stronghold of technology. Tech and healthcare partnerships were cited as the best opportunity to shorten the 17 year cycle from research to clinical practice, with technology disruption in the areas of big data, AI, and cloud infrastructure from local tech giants Microsoft and Amazon pushing the healthcare industry forward. (Let’s hope they can also solve the interoperability of data problems, as one speaker equated having the largest Epic installation at Providence as being a substitute for data portability and interoperability.)

All in all, this was a great event, and discussions at my table ranged from best practices for oncology care, especially with patient-facing tools outside the clinic, to how smart hospital room design includes sensors in the furniture to predict patient falls. That the room was buzzing before 7:30 on a Friday morning shows that we have a lot of great momentum for solving hard problems in healthcare in Seattle.

Posted in: Healthcare costs, Healthcare Disruption, Healthcare Technology, Healthcare transformation

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