Health inequity solutions require data, analytics and awareness turned into action


From left: Moderator Rowland Illing of Amazon Web Services, spoke with Dr. Ashish Atreja of UC Davis Health, Ashok Chennuru of Anthem and Dr. Daniel Low of Seattle Children’s Hospital and AdaptX at HIMSS22.

ORLANDO, Fla. A panel of provider, payer and tech experts speaking at HIMSS22 went beyond the issue of health equity to address ways their organizations are tracking and helping to solve gaps. An engaged crowd asked numerous questions after the session “Advancing Health Equity Through Powerful Technology Solutions.”

Moderator Rowland Illing, director and CMO of Amazon Web Services, spoke with Dr. Ashish Atreja, CIO and chief digital health officer for UC Davis Health; Ashok Chennuru, chief data and insights officer for Anthem; and Dr. Daniel Low, pediatric anesthesiologist Seattle Children’s Hospital and chief medical officer at AdaptX. All work with AWS as their cloud provider.

Despite using technology and analytics in their quest for solutions, all agreed that tech and data only get you so far. 

Equity gaps are not the result of not having enough data, but of human error, they said. What’s needed is a change in healthcare culture, from the top down and bottom up.

There is a15-year life expectancy difference between people who live in downtown Chicago and those who live on the west side, Illing said.

Atreja said the number one predictor of health status at any level is education. But most EHRs don’t capture the education level of patients.

Chennuru said another focus should be on people who live alone. It’s as important as clinical and pharmacy data, he said. 

“We look at a patient living alone, then we look at loneliness as a factor,” Chennuru said. If this is handed off and integrated into a platform, the data can be made actionable, he said.

The rise in the use of telehealth during COVID-19 often has bypassed populations that don’t speak English.

Low said, “The pandemic has brought out what was already there. It made it more visible.”

For instance, he said, when someone is brought into the emergency room, there is a window of time to save the brain of about 32 minutes. A clinician found that it takes 20 minutes longer for African American patients to get treatment than white patients.

A clinician decided to fix the issue. She broke down the care processes, Low said, from triage, to bed, to CT scan and treatment to figure out where the gaps were. 

“She managed to fix their care inequity in three months,” Low said.

Anthem is tracking zip codes. It knows that 20 million of its members had trouble accessing good-quality nutritious food, a figure that is up from previous years, Chennuru said. 

But, he said, “How do you take this information and focus on the zip codes that matter?”

We’ve done 95% of the hard work,” Low said. “The last inch of the mile is now.”


Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: [email protected]


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