Health Disparities: Reducing the Impact of Societal Inequities on Patient Care

Systemic inequities have a lengthy and well-documented history in the United States. Employment, education, housing, and health are just a few of the sectors where inequities exist. A health disparity is defined by Healthy People 2020 as “a specific type of health discrepancy that is linked to social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities harm people who have historically faced greater barriers to health because of their race or ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, mental health, cognitive, sensory, or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, geographic location, or other characteristics historically associated with discrimination or exclusion.”

Women and people of colour have been demonstrated to have less accurate diagnoses, fewer treatment options, and poorer pain management, as well as poorer clinical results. Pregnancy-related mortality rates for non-Hispanic Black women are 3-4 times greater than for non-Hispanic Caucasian women. Researchers discovered in 2014 that Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have a 60 percent higher infant death rate than their white counterparts. Unintended pregnancy rates are greater among Black and Hispanic women than among Caucasian women, and this has been connected to a variety of negative perinatal outcomes. Military veterans have inequities in healthcare access, usage of health care, and greater prevalence rates of some chronic conditions even outside of the civilian healthcare system. Access to mental health treatment and a lack of health insurance are linked to considerable inequities in mental healthcare among ethnic minorities, just as they are with healthcare in general.

Given the foregoing, health-care practitioners must ensure that they are not only raising awareness of societal inequities, but also recognising the influence they can have on treatment delivery, patient self-management, and provider-patient collaborative treatment planning. The tactics described below are not intended to be a comprehensive solution to a systemic problem; rather, they are intended to be some suggested starting steps toward fostering discourse, encouraging systemic assessments, and emphasising the significance of continual monitoring and process improvement.

Self-evaluation: Be always careful in checking our own unconscious biases toward groups other than our own. Through continual staff development training, subject matter expert consultation, anti-racist education, case consultations, and peer reviews, promote cultural competency as the norm.

Ask Questions: Instead of presuming that certain habits, attitudes, or behaviours are shared by all members of a racial or ethnic group, don’t be hesitant to gently inquire of your patients and peers.

Treatment Planning is a Collaboration Process: Keep in mind that treatment planning is a collaborative process between the patient cost of developing a health app and the treatment providers. Allow the patient to express their problems and actively listen to them.

Medication Adherence Challenges: Evaluate medication adherence in your patients on a frequent basis. Discuss noncompliance and variables that may influence adherence, such as historical or cultural mistrust and/or treatment hurdles.

Relationship/Family Dynamics: Allow patients to speak confidentially about their difficulties without their spouse or family member there. Only with the patient’s consent may the treatment plan be discussed with partners. Encourage parents to accept a split appointment for their teenage minors, in which their teenager can be seen alone before the parent/guardian rejoins the appointment near the conclusion.

Allow for expert interpreters to be employed, and arrange for them ahead of time. Do not assume that just because a patient brought a friend or family member to their appointment, they want their health information shared with them. To reduce self-consciousness about inadequate English skills, normalise translation use and make it obvious that it is not an inconvenience.

Financial Barriers: Be aware of any associated fees that may obstruct follow-up or drug adherence while describing treatment recommendations. Facilitate the patient’s access to prescription discount programmes whenever possible. Don’t assume that all of your patients have health insurance.

Discuss with patients their capacity to go to recommended follow-up appointments or other medical consult recommendations due to transportation barriers. Discuss strategies to arrange numerous appointments on the same day if possible to save money on petrol, tolls, and the patient’s dependency on others for transportation.

Patient Surveys: Use a patient survey to get feedback on the care they are receiving. Pay special attention to patterns and regions that are regularly lacking. To address complaints or areas of concern, create a corrective action plan.

Staff Training: Organizations are recommended to ensure that employees are trained on cultural competency on a regular basis, including how diverse demographic characteristics affect patient care. Ensure that cultural competency expectations are incorporated into routine processes and procedures by your personnel.

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