January 20, 2018

Health Disparities and the Digital Divide

Health Disparities and the Digital Divide

Compelling evidence indicates that race and ethnicity correlate with persistent, and often increasing health disparities among U.S. populations.

The future health of the nation will be determined to a large extent by how effectively we work with communities to reduce and eliminate health disparities between non-minority and minority populations experiencing disproportionate burdens of disease, disability, and premature death.”                                                                                                                            – Office of Minority Health

Unequal Opportunity?

Residence plays a major role in determining health treatments, treatment patterns and health outcomes; and race, ethnicity, socio-economic status often play a major role in “choices” about residence.  For these reasons, racial and ethnic minorities and the elderly suffer disproportionately from poorer health, have lower socio-economic status, are “uninsured” and “underserved” by over-burdened “local” health services, and have limited access to high quality “referral” networks. They also suffer disproportionately from low health literacy; even though the majority of people with low literacy skills in the United States are white, native-born Americans.

Disparities often lead to differences in deaths from heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes (the four top killers of Americans), as well as mental illness. To eliminate health disparities and improve medical outcomes, health care organizations and service providers must provide information that its intended audience identifies with, understands and can act upon…

Culturally sensitive materials must acknowledge cultural differences and addresses these differences in the choice of content, language and visual elements, so that the intended message is communicated accurately and appropriately to its intended audience.

– Partnership for Clear Health Communication

Economic growth has long been considered a powerful antidote to poverty, however, the poverty rate continues to rise, as does the percentage of people without health coverage.  To combat the effects of poverty and simultaneously improve the health status of residents in economically disadvantaged areas, “eHealth” alone isn’t enough.

A comprehensive, wrap around approach to personal and community enrichment is required, and ISSOP(powered by PHIERS) may be the key.

Health Disparities and the Internet

The National Library of Medicine defines interactive health communication (IHC)[11] as “the interaction of an individual—consumer, patient, caregiver or professional—with or through an electronic device or communication technology to access or transmit health information or to receive guidance and support on a health-related issue.”  PHIERS is an “IHC” in the truest sense, as it facilitates the effective transfer of health information between information sources, workers and consumers.

What the Internet does not lack is abundant information. What the Internet does lack is quality control over the information that is there, the way that it is organized, and a convenient means to access it. – Center for Information Therapy

According to National Cancer Institute[12], many studies show that certain ethnic minorities and low-income, less-educated populations in the USA have limited access to electronic information about health. This phenomenon, often referred to as the “digital divide”, has been identified as a special problem in healthcare that can lead to significant disparities in care, morbidity and mortality.

PHIERS reaches across the digital divide to serve the informational needs of underserved populations by accommodating differences in language, cultural tradition, disability and technology in a scalable and cost-effective manner.

PHIERS also supports the best in distance learning and instructional methods to provide learning experiences that are enjoyable, effective, measurable and complete.


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Building Healthier Lives from the Inside – Out


PHIERS (pronounced “fires”) is the “Personalized Healthcare Information, Education and Retention System”.  PHIERS provides the technical means through which health professionals will assist individuals seeking to improve their health status and quality of life, while improving the quality and consistency of care and reducing operating expenses.  This is accomplished by improving the quality of patient-provider interactions, overcoming the barriers to effective/actionable health communication and combating the negative effects of health disparities and “low health literacy.”

Patients with low health literacy typically have poorer health, have more frequent doctor visits and longer hospital stays, and are responsible for an estimated $73 billion in unnecessary medical expenditures, annually. According to the Surgeon General, health literacy may be even more essential to health promotion, particularly when addressing issues of primary prevention regarding otherwise avoidable diseases, like obesity, one of the fastest growing causes of death and disease in America today [22].

To deal with the issues of affordability, access and quality,

consumers must be equipped to better manage their health…

In theory, an educated patient would ask better questions and feel empowered to prevent medical errors before they occur. Bridging the information gap between patients and their health care providers is, therefore, the first major hurdle to increasing health literacy and improving the overall health of our nation. Helping patients comply with self-care instructions and health promotional activities is the second.  Maximizing the quality, impact and reach of health interventions that work is the third.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the nation’s top health and civic organizations, including AHRQ’s Healthy People 2010 Action Plan, PHIERS will deliver measurable results in a timely and cost-effective manner by linking its usage directly to its impact on medical outcomes.  PHIERS will also improve the quality, impact and reach of “actionable” health information in a manner acceptable to most health care information consumers, including special needs groups like the elderly, low income and racial/ethnic populations, who often have different languages, cultural traditions, and sources of information about health.

With PHIERS, patients and physicians will benefit from improved communications; patients will play a more active role in managing their health and enjoy better medical outcomes; medical mistakes will be avoided before they occur and funding organizations will enjoy significant reductions in unnecessary medical expenditures. In short, PHIERS improves the lives of everyone it touches, from the inside-out!

To learn more, please download the PHIERS Overview by clicking HERE.

PHIERS is an effective response to the “first public health crisis of the 21st century[6]”and is a catalyst for its realization, today!

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