from Devin PartyEditor,
Twitter: @rehackmagazine

Technology is central to modern healthcare, including the provision of comprehensive medical treatment that is equally accessible and accessible to all. Justice is a major concern today, especially as the data highlights the continuing differences between different demographic groups.

Even when there is equal access to health care, circumstances cause uneven quality of treatment from one person to another. In many ways, technology is both a problem and a solution. Healthcare leaders can use it to improve justice by addressing several key challenges.

Improving the transparency of medical AI

AI and machine learning in healthcare can be a hot topic. When the technology was new, many believed it was the solution to resolving continuing major biases against blacks and other minority groups. However, this did not turn out to be the case. Algorithmic bias has become a major problem in AI medical models, with algorithms that return results that reflect societal prejudices learned from training data.

However, many experts still believe that artificial intelligence technology is the key to tackling health inequalities. Algorithms trained to be truly impartial could help physicians provide better care for all patients and help alleviate medical mistrust among key demographic groups. Professor C. Craig Watkins of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology commented on AI and racism in a report from 2022, noting: “Systemic change requires a model of cooperation and different experiences … We are trying to maximize the impact and potential of the computing side, but we will not get there by calculations alone.”

Watkins went on to explain that greater access to resources and AI education, as well as real-world policy changes, are crucial to tackling algorithmic bias. Building more transparent AI models and training them with more inclusive data can help create a fairer healthcare system, as many originally envisioned.

Expanding access to technology

One of the most common problems in health equity is the lack of access to standard facilities and technology to communicate with providers. This became even more problematic when the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies, employers and doctors to move to mostly remote, virtual operations.

Lack of access to technology is detrimental to health equity, especially in digital technologies. This is even affecting efforts to improve medical technology that will address capital inequalities.

Some may be surprised to learn that about 30 million Americans do not have access to broadband. This is much more common in rural areas, where approximately a quarter of the residents are not connected. People who are older, less educated, low-income and colored are more likely to not have broadband access. These people can be easily abandoned, in care and as data, when the services are mostly digital.

Everyone is welcome in health centers, but not everyone has the necessary tools to make full use of available services or even pay for them. For example, those without Internet or computer access may not be able to study how to create a health savings account or pay digital medical bills. This exacerbates economic barriers that deter many from seeking medical treatment. Actively expanding access to technology and resources to research, receive and pay for treatment could address inequalities in equity.

Diversification of health research

Knowledge is the key to overcoming any challenge. If doctors, nurses and medical researchers do not have comprehensive information on the treatment of all patients, they will not be able to provide equal care. Healthcare may be equally accessible to all today, but fair treatment remains inaccessible to many because providers do not have the data to offer the best care possible. Too often, this leads to patients in the minority demographic who receive poor quality medical treatment, which builds mistrust and exacerbates inequality.

According to studies from 2020 seven out of 10 black Americans report that they have been treated unfairly by the health system. This can manifest itself in many ways, such as lack of access to high-quality health insurance or denial of certain treatment options. Data plays a key role in this problem, along with key societal factors.

Increasing the variety of medical research allows healthcare providers to gain a more in-depth and accurate understanding of everyone’s needs. This data can also be used to properly train impartial AI medical models.

More diverse health research could also identify geographical areas that do not have access to high-quality care facilities or technology to reach suppliers. The use of data collection and research technologies will reveal where inequalities are most prevalent and help inform solutions.

Equal health care for all

Technology can build a truly equitable, equitable health care system. However, it remains in the abyss due to lack of access and inclusive data that hinder possible solutions. The right strategies can expand equitable access to treatment, improve knowledge of care, and provide physicians with the tools and data to create an impartial system for all patients.

How Can Technology Contribute to Equity in Health Care?

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