Over the last 2 years, a greater spotlight has shone on inequalities in health care, and the greater need to improve health equity. Part of this effort is the need for education on health disparities to educate clinicians on how to best improve health outcomes for all patient populations. We sat down with WebMD CMO, Dr. John Whyte, and Medscape Education CMO, Dr. Hansa Bhargava, to discuss how we can work toward a better and more equitable future.
Although issues existed prior to COVID-19, in many ways the pandemic illuminated the need to work toward addressing disparities. Dr. Bhargava shares that, “Morbidity and mortality related to the pandemic unfortunately was more concentrated in certain racial groups. Initially the spread of COVID tended to be worse in those in the lower socioeconomic strata. As we received more data, it became clear that inequities in health certainly resulted in worse outcomes for COVID-19.”
Dr. Whyte agrees, “We saw the disparity in COVID-19 deaths and vaccine uptake. This was no surprise to people who have studied disparity for decades, but finally there is a substantive discussion.”
That discussion is happening at the national level. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlined 5 priorities related to health equity for 2022-2023:
- Expand the collection, reporting, and analysis of standardized data
- Assess causes of disparities within CMS programs and address inequalities in policies and operations to close gaps
- Build capacity of healthcare organizations and the workforce to reduce health and healthcare disparities
- Advance language access, health literacy, and the provision of culturally tailored services
- Increase all forms of accessibility to healthcare services and coverage
Medscape Education has aligned with these priorities through its focus on improving health equity through education. Dr. Bhargava explains, “Awareness and education of providers and the healthcare team is the first step in this journey. Hospitals and health systems should have easy to access resources for clinicians to gain an understanding of the impact of inequities on health and outcomes.”
Recently, Medscape Education launched Elevating Health Equity, a dedicated learning center featuring education activities and resources designed to provide clinicians across the care team with the education they need. The Elevating Health Equity learning center reaches learners through education activities on topics including social determinants of health, providing equitable care, and more.
In the future, Dr. Bhargava and Dr. Whyte hope to expand the focus of health equity education. “I believe that we should continue our education on the current topics, but also focus on access to health care, especially in rural populations as often there is limitation of specialists, tertiary care, and access,” said Dr. Bhargava.
“And also in access to digital health,” adds Dr. Whyte, “We have some amazing digital health tools that will continue to allow people to take control of their health...Yet many of these require paying out of pocket. This could create more disparity.”
Dr. Whyte also identifies clinical trials as a critical area of focus. “We need more effective strategies to improve diversity in clinical trials. We need new strategies particularly with decentralized clinical trials. We also need to be transparent about who participates in clinical trials for all Dr.ugs.”
He continues, “There is much work to be done across the board, but if we continue to keep the conversation going as a healthcare community, we can make a crucial improvement in care.”
For more information on Medscape Education’s efforts toward health equity, visit https://www.medscape.org/sites/advances/elevating-health-equity