Oct 09 2019

Why Diversity in Healthcare IT Matters

Hiring a variety of voices from a range of backgrounds can improve care for everyone.

When commercial automobiles became widely available in the early 20th century, they resembled horse-drawn wagons. Over time, countless iterations were refined to improve style, safety and accessibility.

These updates didn’t happen in a vacuum. Feedback, legislation, experimentation and market competition drove the changes. Diverse stakeholders and experiences helped evolve the vehicles that much of humanity now relies on for transportation.

Similarly, diverse voices in healthcare IT are critical to improving tools that boost outcomes and reduce disparities in a nation where more than 38 million people live in poverty — and where communities of color generally face more barriers to care. Age and gender balance in the workplace is important too. After all, the core purpose of health technology is not only to create more efficient and effective care delivery but also to help democratize it.

In order to fulfill this promise and create the most effective products, it is crucial that tech industry leaders, designers and facilitators represent perspectives, cultures and needs that mirror those of the people they serve.

But the field has a long way to go: A recent TechCrunch analysis found white and Asian employees still hold a clear majority at major Silicon Valley companies.

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Discover how digital tools can help improve patient outcomes.

Technology Organizations Make Progress in Diversity

Still, I’m encouraged by research that shows diverse teams in technology organizations are more likely to be intelligent and creative, perform better and be mindful of solutions that target a wide consumer base. And efforts such as Health 2.0’s TECHquality mentoring partnership and the Culture of Health program at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are helping to develop a pipeline for minority talent.

To that end, diversity must also be a priority at care organizations, including in their IT staffing. At AmeriHealth Caritas, which serves low-income and chronically ill populations, we draw on the unique perspectives and voices of our employees in all aspects of community engagement services, program development and innovation.

Danielle Brooks, Director of Health Equity, AmeriHealth Caritas
The core purpose of health technology is not only to create more efficient and effective care delivery but also to help democratize it."

Danielle Brooks Director of Health Equity, AmeriHealth Caritas

Our community navigators, for example, use technology to help members access their care records, screen for unmet needs that can affect health (such as access to public transportation and job training) and search for necessary medical and community-based services. Our teams also teach them how to engage with such resources on their own, inspiring greater comfort with technology and the ability to take better charge of their care.

READ MORE: Connected technologies deliver the power to improve patient outcomes.

Data Helps Drive More Informed and Improved Care

There’s no question that we can serve our populations best by understanding who they are and how to connect with them. Analytics tools have attempted to standardize this outreach, but the technology also helps us outline and address the differences we see — determining whether programs or initiatives meet their goals and how our members’ characteristics contribute to those outcomes.

It has allowed us to turn pools of data into actionable insights. By spending resources on programs that work, we can improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

As we look to the future of healthcare IT, we have a continued opportunity to learn from the diverse voices of our providers, patients and partners. Doing so helps give all parties a seat at the table in driving progress — and helps ensure that everyone, no matter their challenges or background, can receive the care they deserve.

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