Closing care gaps with context and connectivity

April 19, 2022

In the U.S. healthcare system, improving population health can feel like a Sisyphean task. Patients’ symptoms can be treated, but larger patterns indicate the system that does not always incentivize preventing health issues before they manifest.

Carly Eckert, M.D., M.P.H., Olive’s executive vice president of provider product, recently spoke with host Stacey Richter on her Relentless Healthcare Value podcast about why the context of the patients experiencing gaps in care cannot be ignored and how providers can create change through small actions every day.

Artemis Health defines care gaps as the “discrepancy between the care provided to patients and the recommended best practices in healthcare.” This can include everything from at-risk patients missing preventative care to a lack of communication about diagnoses between care teams.

“You can’t really take the patient out of the context in which they live,” Dr. Eckert said on the podcast. “I think about population health as a way to combine the patient in front of you in the larger context of the world they live in.”

If we want to close care gaps and improve population health, healthcare and treatment cannot exist in silos. Context and connectivity are crucial to understanding a patient’s history and getting them the care they need to get and stay healthy.

Providing price transparency

Cost can be a determining factor in whether patients choose to seek care when they need it. Often, it discourages them because they are worried about unknown or unexpected costs. Legislation like the No Surprises Act is a step in the right direction but does not soothe every payment worry.

“There can be a lot of fear around payment and around billing that can often interfere with patients and their care gaps and obviously the larger kind of population health aspects,” said Dr. Eckert. “I think anything we can do… any added transparency we can provide to patients around costs and fees and expectations can only improve that relationship… There’s certainly a fear of what [care costs] might be and people delaying that care due to that sense of the unknown.”

Prioritizing a diverse workforce

Everyone deserves access to healthcare, but it can be hard to find care in a sea of people that don’t understand your life experience. Representation is crucial in healthcare, to the point of determining whether a patient will pursue care based on their relationship with their provider.

“We know that people are more likely to receive preventative services if their provider looks like them,” said Dr. Eckert. “So the more diverse of a provider workforce that we have, the more we can really enable diverse populations to come and seek care.”

Incorporating the community

Community-based outreach programs, like hypertension screenings in barbershops, have been proven to help patients manage their chronic diseases. They meet patients in a comfortable and convenient setting.

When a more interconnected healthcare system allows for better communication between providers and those successful community-based programs, patients have the best opportunity for great outcomes.

“I think more partnerships between provider organizations and those groups that are already doing the work in the community would really be potentially powerful,” said Dr. Eckert.

It takes a physical and digital village to help close care gaps and create a more united healthcare system. 

Listen to the entire Relentless Healthcare Value episode featuring Dr. Eckert.