How do we solve healthcare inequality?

Nick kelly
Oct 18
min read
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Nicholas was pleased to add his comments to a Raconteur discussion about healthcare inequality earlier this year.

With coronavirus exacerbating healthcare disparities among many communities and inequalities proving to be truly life threatening, journalist Jonathan Weinberg asked where we should turn post-pandemic to solve this urgent problem. Can healthcare inequality be tackled effectively when fallout from COVID will see NHS funding stretched as waiting lists continue to grow?

Many technological solutions have been offered to solve this inequality crisis, including the digitalisation of records for more effective data analysis using advances in artificial intelligence, plus more apps to aid diagnosis, treatment and care. But a survey from diabetes management app Quin showed just one in ten of those questioned had used an app to monitor their own health conditions, despite 87 per cent agreeing with their positive benefits.

Nicholas, who believes that healthcare passports will help to level the playing field not just in the UK but worldwide, cautions on “trying to run before we’ve learnt to walk”.

“We’re actively talking about video consultancies, remote patient monitoring and electronic health records. I think this is amazing and definitely the way forward, but in doing that we forget a large majority of the country don’t have access to standard broadband speeds or even have access to technology that would facilitate this. So I would like to see more money spent in bridging the digital gap in terms of the use of technology.”

Continuing the discussion, Lord Victor Adebowale, chairman of video-collaboration platform Visionable, says to get the most from digital adoption to advance equity, we must ensure those commissioning services design them with a fuller understanding of the needs of the individuals and communities they are intended for.

Empowerment is another important factor, with a recent report by Public Policy Projects including as one of its twelve policy recommendations the need to empower patients to become informed co-creators of their own health.

A solution could simply be listening and talking more, says Peter Taylor, director of research at the Institute of Development Studies. “It is rare for the views of those who experience the worst effects of healthcare issues to be included in decision-making around interventions,” he says.

“Listening and engaging is essential to rebuilding trust and confidence in healthcare providers and interventions, which in turn determines take-up and effectiveness. Without consultation with the communities affected at local, national or global level, there is a huge risk those already left behind will fall even further behind.”

Read more: Finding a solution to healthcare inequality []