Reducing health disparities through effective data management
COMMENTARY | Data management solutions can help public health agencies effectively organize, analyze and optimize the value of their data.
While inequitable access to health care has historically been a challenge, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed concerns about health disparities into the spotlight. As the nation emerges from the pandemic, government organizations at all levels are searching for ways to mitigate these inequities.
It is increasingly evident that advancements in technology have enormous potential to remediate health disparities if harnessed correctly. Modern, comprehensive and secure health care data management (HCDM) services can ensure that IT is an enabler of equity for public sector health care at the federal, state and local levels, unlike legacy systems that are often an obstacle to efficient and equitable operations.
A substantial benefit of public health IT modernization is a reduction in the administrative burden through automation. By removing menial data processing tasks from health care workers’ daily activities, automation can free up time for patient care, an especially valuable advantage given the current health care worker shortage.
Automated claims processing, self-service portals and robotic process automation can exponentially reduce time spent on administrative tasks, effectively streamlining processes and reducing workloads. For an industry where time is often critical, it is paramount to maximize efficiency. While improved employee experiences undeniably translate to better patient outcomes, the benefits of IT modernization extend far beyond reductions to provider burden.
Increasing the capacity of an organization’s digital infrastructure is another upgrade public health care agencies can make to serve their patients more equitably. Data is undeniably a strategic asset, and public sector health care providers are beginning to realize the value of data for improving individual and community-level health outcomes. However, as data accumulates, outdated systems can become overwhelmed with information. Moreover, the improper maintenance of data records can result in misdiagnosis or substandard care.
To optimize the value of available data, public health agencies should look to data management solutions to effectively organize and utilize their data. With the robust digital infrastructure provided by HCDM platforms, the true benefits of data analysis can be realized.
Health disparities cannot be addressed if they are not understood. Once data is collected and analyzed, officials can identify care gaps and illuminate the true implications of inequities in the social determinants of health. When data is used to recognize disparities, inequities can be reduced if the necessary resources are directed to groups in need. Technology can also enable additional community engagement, education and outreach efforts in underserved communities. Additionally, advanced analysis may help health care providers discover current or emerging health trends.
Data analysis can produce population-specific health insights that enable clinical solutions and effectively improve health outcomes. Plus, predictive analysis can help prevent the occurrence of health issues for individuals as well as targeted groups. This sort of predictive modeling allows for proactive, preventative health measures, which are almost always less costly than reactive, emergency care. As such, decreasing health disparities will not only improve the health outcomes of marginalized communities, but it will reduce the strain on the entire public sector health care system.
All people deserve the best possible health outcomes. Recent initiatives to reduce health disparities at the state, local and federal levels are commendable and necessary; however, there is a long road ahead to achieve true equity.
First and foremost, clean, usable and well-governed data that is supported by robust digital infrastructure must be readily available in order to capitalize on the many health equity benefits of IT modernization. Whereas legacy IT can impede an organization's ability to successfully serve patients, modern tools can deliver improved experiences for providers and patients alike. For a goal as imperative as health equity, public sector providers should look to modern technology, such as HDMS platforms, automation tools and artificial intelligence to improve equitable health outcomes.
Judy Jiao is chief information officer at National Government Services.
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