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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Personalized Healthcare Information, Education and Resource System

PHIERS (pronounced “fires”) enhances existing patient-empowerment and health education activities, and is the means through which “expectations, preferences and skills of individuals seeking health information meet the expectations, preferences and skills of individuals providing information”.

According to the Institute of Medicine, “patients should receive care whenever they need it and in many forms, not just during face-to-face visits. This implies that the health care system must be responsive at all times, and access to care should be provided over the Internet, by telephone, and by other means, in addition to in-person visits.”

A Community-Focused Solution

PHIERS is based on the priorities and recommendations of the nation’s top health and civic organizations, including proponents of information therapy, patient and literacy advocates; health professionals; federal and state policy makers; and public and private purchasers of care. As such, PHIERS will deliver measurable results in a timely manner by linking its usage directly to its impact on medical outcomes in each of the following areas:

PHIERS will promote collaboration among health professionals and patient advocacies, associations, constituencies and departments while integrating the concepts of health-management with shared decision making, patient-centered care and evidence-based medicine.

With PHIERS, patients and physicians can communicate more effectively and share in the decision making process, avoid mistakes before they occur and reduce unnecessary expenditures. Most importantly, patients and physicians will enjoy dramatic improvements in the quality of their interactions, and the subsequent medical outcomes.

According to President and Trustee of the AMA Foundation[3], Dr. Joseph Riggs, M.D.,

“Physicians want to live in a world where patients can be confident that they know how to care  for themselves. Patients want to care for themselves and they want to live healthier lives.  We know that when [providers and patients] work together, this vision will become reality.[4]”

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