Why Equity in Healthcare Matters, and How Can Technology Close the Gap?

Laszlo Svinger, MD 3M Middle East

What is healthcare equity and why does it matter?
The World Health Organization defines health care equity as the ability of everyone, regardless of gender, gender, race, disability or religion, to achieve their full potential for health and well-being. In other words, an equitable health care system ensures that there are no unfair, avoidable, or remedial differences between populations. Sadly, globally, we are far from achieving equity in healthcare, and marginalized and underrepresented communities are often underserved. No wonder achieving health and well-being for all is the third of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

What are the unique characteristics of healthcare equity in the MENA region?
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, healthcare inequalities frequently occur across genders due to institutional and cultural biases. Regional studies bear this out.Based on the 2022 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, Measuring economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment, the MENA region has the second-highest gender gap globally, after South Asia, at 36.6%.

While there are many complex reasons why health care inequalities persist, we must come together to address them. Immediate action we can take is to make effective use of the advanced technologies available to ensure a fairer industry as a whole.

How can advanced technology support greater equity in healthcare?
Covid has put enormous pressure on the healthcare system, leading to interruptions in the treatment of communicable and non-communicable diseases. The technology we have to thank for one of the most important innovations in healthcare is telemedicine. The expansion of telehealth and digital prescribing services enables patients to continue receiving non-urgent care without having to travel to a medical facility in person. This is critical to reducing the risk of contracting the coronavirus for patients, especially those with chronic medical conditions, while ensuring continued access. Telehealth also has a huge impact on remote communities, where gaining physical access to medical facilities is often cumbersome.

Another revolution in healthcare is access to big data and analytics. Health Information Systems (HIS) are key to healthcare transformation as they increase efficiency, increase productivity and reduce costs. Crucially, however, with regard to equity, more data can help identify those at risk, tailor treatments, and ultimately improve patient outcomes. For example, our Health Analytics Social Determinants Platform allows healthcare providers and payers to prioritize care and allocate resources to at-risk individuals and patient groups. HIS software brings together clinical, social, and population health data, enabling public and private health stakeholders to visualize a comprehensive, holistic view of patient health. This is critical to being able to identify those at higher risk for the disease.

Understanding social risk factors is part of the journey towards preventive healthcare – if we know who is at risk and why we can develop early targeted interventions. If we can understand who is most at risk and where, we can learn how to apply specific therapeutic interventions, such as 3M’s vaccine adjuvant “3M-052” for Covid patients. It can boost the immune response and enhance the efficacy of vaccines under development. It opens up new possibilities for prevention and intervention where it is most needed.

Advanced technologies are opening up a new world of possibilities for healthcare, and today we are seeing a pickup in digital transformation momentum across the industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are also seeing significant public support for the healthcare opportunities offered by new technologies. For example, in the UAE, our report states that 43% of people in the UAE want to use artificial intelligence, data analytics and digital health records to track and improve patient health outcomes, which will be one of the top healthcare advancements prioritized by science over Covid-19 -19 (33% globally).

What else must the industry do to address health care equity?
Across the industry, we must do more to ensure fair representation, which is critical to fair outcomes. For the healthcare sector, that means getting more women and minorities into STEM early. We have committed $50 million to address opportunity gaps and STEM education programs. To that end, we hope to advance economic equity by creating 5 million unique STEM and tech industry learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.

Finally, we must stress the importance of cross-industry collaboration to ensure greater fairness. With new technologies and an evolving healthcare landscape, collaboration is critical to bringing more equity to healthcare, whether it’s working together to implement a new digital health record system to ensure greater minorities across the industry. ethnic representation.

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