The amount of technological innovation that has emerged since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of remarkable. But from home delivery mobile platforms and services like Instacart and Chewy, to improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), few technological innovations have proved as necessary and vital to the improvement of our health and overall quality of life as the broader adoption of telehealth services.
However, not all telehealth communications and services are unilaterally valuable to everyone. Consider, for example, minorities such as those in Latino and Latinx communities. According to a report published earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Spanish-speaking Latino adults are more likely to worry about medical bills…and [those] with limited English proficiency are less likely to obtain outpatient care and receive prescriptions than English-speaking Latinos.”
As an MD of nearly 40 years, I know firsthand how important communication between patients and their health care team is to the outcome of the care they receive. This is just one reason why I am proud to serve as the Chief Innovation Officer for MediGuru: a software platform that allows networks of healthcare providers and payers to fully customize their telemedicine and telehealth virtual care services, with a specific focus on bridging gaps to improve healthcare for disadvantaged minority populations.
Bridging gaps between virtual healthcare providers and recipients
It goes without saying that, in a post-COVID world, virtual telehealth and telemedicine care services are no longer a mere luxury; for many — but particularly minorities such as the Latino community — they are a necessity.
To add credence to this point, a study published by health insurance provider Anthem this past summer found that the Hispanic/Latino community was the most engaged in mental health telecare services throughout 2020, even despite “overall gaps in getting mental health care between races and ethnic groups [remaining] essentially the same before and during COVID.”
Many MDs are familiar with (or, at least, have an understanding of) discrepancies in health equity, particularly regarding disadvantaged and minority communities. A multitude of barriers to achieving full health equity still exist within our healthcare system today; remnants of historic healthcare injustices such as culturally insensitive care towards minority communities that have fueled generational distrust between these communities and their healthcare providers.
By integrating HIPAA compliant communication methods into MediGuru’s software, our team has showcased our platform’s efficacy to build trust in Hispanic, Latino, and other minority communities seeking telehealth services. And because virtual telehealth services are expected to remain prominent even long after the pandemic’s officially-declared end, and the organization is positioned to serve as the proverbial threshold between those within these communities and an overall improved virtual healthcare experience.
Improving the virtual telecare experience for disadvantaged communities
The ways through which MediGuru can improve the overall healthcare experience for Hispanic/Latino populations and other minority communities — particularly those in which English is not a native language — are numerous.
For instance, MediGuru’s user-friendly dashboard allows for potential patients to connect with medical personnel that can speak Spanish, allowing them to better assist the patient’s healthcare profile, medical conditions, and care needs. Following this initial step, a designated medical assistant can then be assigned in order to help prepare a patient using the software platform by taking care of administrative details, addressing and answering the patient’s questions in Spanish and/or English whenever a telehealth visit is scheduled or completed. Additionally, the platform allows providers to record and transcribe any conversations between them and the patient for easier telehealth record-keeping in both Spanish and English.
Communication is perhaps the most crucial component of a healthcare provider’s ability to effectively treat their patients. Without proper communication, the quality of care becomes disrupted and heavily impeded. However, by working in tandem with healthcare providers and patients from minority communities to provide both demographics a unified platform where communication becomes seamless and conversationally personalized, the organization is positioned to improve the quality of healthcare — and thus, the overall quality of life — to patients that have been historically disadvantaged and marginalized by the healthcare system in the U.S.