Clinical Blog
Published: March 28, 2023

Is Health Equity Feeling Further Out of Reach? 4 Ways Digital Health Solutions Can Bring You Closer

Health disparities are widening — especially in respiratory care.

According to research from JAMA Internal Medicine, over a 40-year period — 1978 to 2018 — pediatric asthma rates among children from lower socioeconomic households increased nearly 400% — 210% more than the prevalence among children from wealthier homes. Similarly, COPD prevalence among low-income Americans rose by nearly 57% — 270% more than COPD rates among people from high-income families.1

To help combat these socioeconomic disparities, ACO REACH models and requirements from NCQA, HEDIS, and CMS are enforcing stringent measurements to ensure all patients have equal access to quality care. With these updates, it’s now more important than ever for health systems — and their bottom lines — to prioritize equity. Here’s how digital therapeutics can help:

1. Extend care beyond the clinic and improve quality metrics

Through remote monitoring, clinicians can monitor treatment plan adherence and use actionable insights to adjust medications after patients leave the clinic. Clinicians can expand their reach and reduce barriers to access for patients who may have transportation limitations or live in medically underserved or rural communities, making it difficult to attend in-person appointments.

By removing physical barriers to quality care, health systems can improve quality metrics across hard-to-reach populations. For example, when using Propeller’s remote monitoring solution, researchers observed up to a 63% decrease in rescue inhaler use2 and up to an 8% increase in medication adherence3 among Medicaid and Medicare populations. 

2. Improve data collection and measurement among vulnerable patient populations

Collecting health data based on socioeconomic factors — race, ethnicity, sex, primary language housing security, transportation availability, and disability status — is part of the new CMS requirement. Digital health programs can help clinicians collect this type of data, enabling them to better understand the health behaviors of vulnerable populations and make more informed treatment decisions.

The American Hospital Association’s report on using data to reduce health disparities and improve health equity states, “After a hospital or health system identifies and investigates a pattern of disparate outcomes in its patient population, the next step is tailoring interventions to drive improvements in patient care and outcomes. And having data about your community enables you to customize your approach.”4

In a public health initiative called AIR Louisville, researchers used Propeller insights to create an asthma risk map for every neighborhood in Jefferson County, Kentucky. The Louisville Metro government then collaborated with the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil to address environmental factors in the neighborhoods most impacted by asthma triggers so that all populations across the city could breathe easier.

3. Use actionable insights to drive clinical treatments for at-risk patients

Clinical insight tools deliver alerts about patients with the highest risk of an exacerbation. By receiving the right notifications at the right time, clinicians can use medically actionable insights to inform care escalation among at-risk populations before they end up in the ER — enabling them to improve quality outcomes and lower the cost of care.

A 2019 study focusing on Medicare-eligible COPD patients found that over the course of 12 months, patients using the Propeller platform experienced a 35% decrease in COPD-related hospitalizations and ED visits.5 This reduction in healthcare resource utilization — a key result of proactive interventions and behavior changes — translates to an estimated cost savings of more than $4,000 per patient based on U.S. national average costs of COPD-related hospitalizations and ED visits.6 

4. Improve patient education and create personalized journeys

Providing patients with culturally and linguistically appropriate health education materials can empower them to self-manage more effectively. Digital tools have the ability to serve accessible, custom content to patients, helping them better understand their condition. Study results from The American Journal of the Medical Sciences found that culturally-tailored interventions can reduce disparities by improving knowledge, health behaviors, and health outcomes when designed at the patient level.7

“This enables patients to become more educated and be in charge of their health,” Dr. Saurabh Chandra, director of telehealth at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), told HealthTech Magazine. “Many good clinical outcomes are the result of education.”8

Through custom education and personalized care, health systems can leverage digital tools to enhance patient satisfaction — even across hard-to-reach populations. By motivating patients through sustainable, positive behavior changes, clinicians can increase patient engagement, retention, and quality of life.

Propeller’s digital therapeutic platform can help your health system achieve health equity and improve quality metrics among underserved populations. Learn more now.

1 Gaffney et al. 2021. Socioeconomic Inequality in Respiratory Health in the US From 1959 to 2018. JAMA Network.
2 Chen et al. 2019.  Passive monitoring of short-acting beta-agonist use via digital platform in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: quality improvement retrospective analysis. JMIR formative research.
3 Lin et al. 2020. Telehealth delivery of  adherence and medication management systems improves outcomes in inner-city children with asthma. Pediatric pulmonology.
4 AHA Center for Health Innovation. Using data to reduce health disparities and improve health equity.
5 Alshabani et al., (2019). Electronic Inhaler Monitoring and Healthcare Utilization in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. J. Telemedicine and Telecare.
6 Alshabani et al. (2019). J Telemed Telecare; Wallace et al. (2019). J Manag Care Spec Pharm
7 Williams et al. 2016. Achieving equity in an evolving healthcare system: Opportunities and challenges. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 351(1), 33–43.
8 The benefits of remote patient monitoring are wide ranging. 2021. HealthTech Magazine.

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