Deploying Digital Technology for Health Equity

Hospitals and health systems looking to provide care to their communities aren’t just seeking a one-episode connection. People need care throughout their lives — but many aren’t in a position to return to it or to seek it out in the first place. With patients drawn from all different walks of life and representing diverse populations, how can healthcare organizations reach them where they are?

The answer may lie in the enhancement and innovation of existing modalities, meeting the expectations of healthcare consumers by operating in a format that is already familiar — like text messaging. 

With creative thinking and the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital services, mobile technology may be the key to improving health equity at a population level. Today’s texting solutions enable providers to surface concerns, triage issues, and route to the appropriate care team, as needed — all at scale, without adding to the staff workflow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Combating health inequities

Health inequities — avoidable differences in health status or health services among or between populations — lead to injustice and inequality in healthcare and medical treatment. Balancing these inequities and leveling the metaphorical playing field is crucial to improving the health of underserved communities.

The importance of health equity to improving population health cannot be understated: research has shown that less than 20% of an individual’s overall health is related to their clinical care, whereas up to 40% of their health can be attributed to social and economic factors.

For example, underserved populations have been found to engage with routine care on a more limited basis than other communities. However, the need for this care — from receiving vaccinations to addressing behavioral health needs to accessing community resources and community-based support — is still great. What, then, is the best way to conduct outreach into these communities?

Taking it digital with text messaging

According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of Americans already own a cell phone. Meeting patients where they are, then, makes logical sense. By reaching out to the devices people already own, organizations can connect the largest number of people to the resources and services they need.

For a variety of reasons, different populations of patients can be difficult to reactivate. For some, access to transportation may be limited. For others, it may be financial considerations or other health inequities that prevent them from seeking care.

To address this problem, we’ve combined the empathetic presence of real people — the humans behind the digital screen — with AI-driven native text messaging outreach. This approach maximizes engagement and helps healthcare organizations extend their reach while also establishing trusted relationships.

Because text outreach can interact with patients over time across their total engagement with a health system, every interaction can be tracked and valuable details can be captured, including behavioral, social, and clinical data. These specifics can then help inform and surface personalized recommendations and resources to patients and guide care teams on next best actions.

Casting an inclusive net

The fact that this technology — text messaging — is easy to use is key here. This usability impacts two differents sets of users:

  • Patients: By lowering the barrier of needing to obtain and understand how to use new technology, traditional technologies like text messaging can help healthcare organizations connect with people in a comfortable format — on their familiar devices and using plain language.
  • Staff: Because the AI-driven text messaging operates through intelligent workflows, patient-facing teams are able to scale both empathy and their reach. This means improved digital care coordination where interventions and community resources can be served to patients without an added lift for staff.

By creatively deploying established technologies, healthcare organizations can help bridge gaps in health equity by providing whole-person, personalized care to all communities.