Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Affordability in Healthcare — Peter McCauley

In today’s peri-pandemic society it is important, now more than ever that we acknowledge, recognize, and understand the impact of social determinants of health (SDoH). This includes an individual’s emotional, social, environmental, and financial wellbeing. Many people face obstacles to achieving good health due to their race, economic status, education levels, neighborhood safety, lack of access to care and healthy food. People with unmet needs are more likely to have chronic conditions, higher rates of depression, and more frequent emergency room visits. They also may not have a primary care physician and are frequently less likely to show up for scheduled doctors’ appointments. This highlights issues related to access to care as well.

Initially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of virtual care increased dramatically. It quickly became apparent that a good number of the people who used these services did not have a primary care physician. As a result of consulting with a doctor via a virtual platform, some of these patients actually learned that they had a chronic condition. This interaction allowed them to take action before the condition became more serious and costly. Yet there are people who did not — and still do not — have access to this technology and do not have a primary care physician.

More recently, the use of virtual care has declined for medical appointments. However, the same does not hold true for behavioral health. In these stressful times, patients need to have consistent contact with their therapists. Even more importantly, we need to identify communities where behavioral health services are not readily available.

Our medical community should actively engage in ways to address unmet social needs in order to avoid exacerbation of chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Publicly available tools like the American Academy of Family Physicians Social Needs Screening Tool or the National Association of Community Health Centers PRAPARE Survey Action and Implementation Toolkit can identify unmet social needs. When SDoH are identified, the healthcare provider can use resources like FindHelp.Org to connect patients to local community resources based on the patient’s zip code.

Affordability and accessibility are top of mind for all healthcare participants. As we all work to improve healthcare outcomes while reducing costs, addressing SDoH in a meaningful manner will certainly prove to be a valuable tool.

Portions of this article were adapted from a Becker’s Payer Issues podcast. To listen to the full interview, click here

Peter McCauley has a thirty year track record of profitable, inclusive health care leadership. He is a well-respected, actively practicing pediatrician serving Chicago’s far south side for over 23 years. Additionally he has collaborated with multiple public & private organizations to support multiple community based initiatives serving the residents of Chicago’s south side. His expertise in value-based health care, combined with the ability to lead and influence provider groups and hospital systems to adopt this reimbursement model vs. standard fee for service, helps to improve quality outcomes for patients while making health care more affordable.

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