Cultural Competency

The Role of Technology in Addressing Healthcare Inequalities

Brittanie Pervier
December 8, 2021

Part 1 of 3 in our Cultural Competency Series

The spread of COVID19 has had a tremendous impact on the healthcare industry and brought light to a significant gap in equity. More than 850 articles about healthcare disparities have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) over the last five years. Despite this increased focus on the topic, data shows that many underserved communities still face long-standing inequities (1). 


Recent studies have shown that underserved communities had higher rates of chronic illness, untreated mental health conditions, and infant mortality than their counterparts. Research during the pandemic has also found that these communities have higher rates of illness and three times higher death rates. These outcomes are linked to barriers such as limited access to care and increased risk of exposure (2). This new information has caused many leading healthcare organizations to prioritize equity by focusing on cultural competence and strategically using technology to close gaps in care.


Taking Action With Cultural Competence 


Cultural competence is often confused and used interchangeably with terms such as cultural awareness and sensitivity, but these terms all have different meanings. What makes cultural competence different, and why are organizations focusing on it now?

 

Cultural competence is when a structured plan is developed and implemented to achieve equity. The CDC defines cultural competence as having the capacity to function effectively within varying cultural contexts (3). Cultural competence requires that organizations have structures and policies in place that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally. They must be able to adapt to diversity and the needs of the communities they serve.  


Today there are a variety of barriers that prevent vulnerable communities from accessing the healthcare they need.


Common Barriers That Impact Care Outcomes Today:


  1. Language Barriers- A recent study found that 25 million Spanish-speaking Americans receive about one-third less care due to language barriers (4).
  2. Literacy-Individuals with low literacy levels are more likely to delay getting care and have more difficulty finding providers than those with higher literacy levels (5).
  3. Transportation-Lack of transportation is the third most common barrier to healthcare. 3.6 million Americans do not receive medical care due to transportation issues (6). 
  4. Geographical Restrictions- The 60 million Americans living in rural areas have fewer healthcare resources than those living in cities (7).


This list is not all-inclusive; there are many barriers to access, and they are often complex compound issues with historical components. The spread of COVID19 has also put an additional strain on these communities, further impacting their ability to receive care. Now healthcare organizations can strategically use digital platforms to help close these gaps. 


Leveraging Digital Platforms to Address Inequities


The recent pandemic, along with the talent shortage, created a great demand for digital solutions that can engage patients and reduce the workload of overburdened care teams. Still, some platforms are allowing healthcare organizations to do even more. 


Organizations that leverage virtual visits can reach patients no matter their location, breaking down barriers for those with limited transportation and patients living in rural areas. Some of the highest quality platforms also provide translation services, further assisting the many patients whose primary language is not English. 


Healthcare chatbots help raise the engagement of underserved communities. They can deliver educational materials in multiple languages or formats. They can guide patients through processes such as special program enrollment. Organizations can also use them to reduce hospital readmissions and prevent missed appointments by deploying automated reminders. 


These digital platforms are helping organizations that are focused on cultural competence and equity move past awareness and take action by breaking down long-standing barriers to care.

 

About QliqSOFT


For more than a decade, QliqSOFT has helped the healthcare industry deliver HIPAA-compliant, reliable, and real-time communication solutions. Our cloud-based digital platform is designed to adapt quickly to meet the industry’s most complex patient engagement and clinical collaboration needs. Learn how QliqSOFT helped First Choice Neurology close care gaps and read the case study, Transforming Patient Experiences.



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The Author
Brittanie Pervier

Brittanie is a passionate marketing specialist and content creator from Washington state. She has a background in both education and healthcare. Brittanie enjoys researching, crafting, and sharing stories that highlight how modern technology is transforming the healthcare industry.

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