3 Opportunities to Create a More Equitable Healthcare Future for All

Reduce the health divide by increasing relevant information

As another year passes, Covid-19 remains a pressing health issue. In 2019, we were introduced to this novel infection; now approaching 2022, new variants are still appearing. As a healthcare worker, I know intimately how difficult this fight has been. To emerge from this pandemic, we all need to work together.

Everyone is susceptible to Covid-19, but the journey ahead is not paved evenly. People who contract Covid-19 must quarantine for 10-days after the onset of symptoms. For the majority, after quarantine, they’re free to resume their lives. But for marginalized communities, this isolation isn’t an isolated moment—it further indicates the healthcare industry’s checkered past of exclusion. Once their 10-day quarantine is complete, they still face unequal access to testing, care, treatment, information dissemination and more. They remain stuck in isolation. This 10-day window also potentially represents lost income opportunity, as not everyone has access to paid medical leave; taking time to recover is difficult when financially stressed.

As healthcare marketers, you can minimize this health divide by listening, speaking up and taking action. From my experience as a practicing physician and Verywell Health’s chief medical officer, here are three opportunities to create a more equitable healthcare future.

Adopt a personalized approach

Before analyzing the root of healthcare inequities, we must first understand that not all humans stand on equal footing—particularly with health. For example, lack of medical imagery of psoriasis on Black skin can interfere with accurate diagnoses and treatment; sexual education that excludes same-gender sex leads to higher STI prevalence in the LGBTQ+ community; and a lower socioeconomic bracket often inhibits physical or financial access to fresh food, resulting in health complications, like high cholesterol.

To resonate with this broad spectrum of individuals, we must adopt a more personalized approach. With a foot in the medical and publishing worlds, I have unique insight into today’s diverse patient population. In most cases, an information disconnect resulting from a lack of representation and a history of neglect and mistreatment by the medical field and its practitioners can obstruct relevancy and discourage people from taking action.

In order to speak to someone, we must listen and stand in solidarity with them.

Implement a user-first mentality

At Verywell, we understand that the consumer sits at the center of the online health experience. To reach them, we need to consider their individual needs.

If a reader feels that their distinct needs aren’t being addressed, how can we expect them to take action with their health? People typically identify with content reflective of their circumstances, requiring us to amplify the voice of those traditionally unheard and ignored to affect change. Having a user-first mentality can continue helping everyone feel catered to and seen.

At Verywell we anchor ourselves in an anti-racism pledge: a promise to our visitors that they will see themselves reflected and represented in the voices and stories shared in our content. This pledge holds us accountable by identifying intentional and unintentional barriers arising from bias or systemic structures, including health-specific impediments, like the cost of care; lack of culturally competent care; little trust in the medical system; racism; proximity to medical providers; and more.

Bringing this to light, we recently launched our Health Divide series to discuss inequities across a variety of conditions. Here, we use in-depth articles, expert interviews and personal stories to offer a statistically backed content destination that spotlights the concerns, experiences and perspectives of specific marginalized communities.

Healthcare marketers need to accommodate the individual, not the other way around. Doing this optimally requires us to listen, learn and exchange opinions for truths.

Make research and review a priority

Oversights exist. But just because we can’t see all the angles doesn’t mean that this obstructed view should be the standard. To create an equitable healthcare landscape, we need to combine honest self-assessment with external input; adjusting our rearview mirror can help fill any knowledge gaps.

We take accuracy very seriously at Verywell. To paint an unbiased picture, we employ a holistic research approach. Here’s how: We evaluate the existing literature, ask questions like “what is the prevalence?” and “who is affected, and why?” and partner with our Anti-Bias Review Board—a group of physicians, DEI experts, psychologists, among others, who offer advice and review content to uphold our integrity.

Telling the truth requires listening to the facts. Embracing these figures is critical, for even if they are discouraging, they facilitate the possibility of leveling the playing field.

Jessica Shepherd MD, MBA, FACOG, is a board-certified OB-GYN and the chief medical officer for Verywell Health. She is the founder and CEO of Sanctum Med + Wellness, a wellness concierge practice, and is affiliated with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. As a healthcare expert, Dr. Shepherd strives to educate people how to address their physical, sexual and emotional health.