Advances in healthcare technology in recent years have lessened the health disparities that diverse populations face. Already, telehealth — which patients are utilizing 38 times more than before the pandemic — has helped people in rural areas and diverse populations access much-needed healthcare services at lower costs.
As the industry evolves, health tech will offer more benefits than improving access to providers. It can also empower underserved communities and individuals to understand and advocate for their own healthcare. This way, they can receive the treatment they need and the care they deserve.
In this article, we’ll explore how the next generation is using technology to make a change in healthcare for themselves and the people around them.
Patients Taking Ownership of Their Data
In the past, medical records were difficult to obtain. With important documents fully maintained by doctors’ offices, patients often had to deal with layers of red tape to get the personal information they needed. However, health tech like electronic medical records is already democratizing healthcare by making information more accessible than ever.
As patients enter the modern era of healthcare, they’re starting to take advantage of home monitoring systems that allow them to share real-time data with their providers. For example, diabetics can better track their blood sugar levels throughout the day and fully understand what’s causing spikes or certain trends. Not only can physicians use this data to provide better care, but patients can proactively seek treatment (and push for help, if necessary) when their data causes concern.
Data is powerful and indisputable, so when patients have it in their hands, their self-advocacy can rise in effectiveness.
Exploring Diverse Provider Options
Telehealth is more than a convenient option for patients. It also gives patients the power of choice. While people were once limited to receiving care from healthcare providers in their local areas, new technologies are making it possible to reach nurses and doctors across the country. Modern patients can take advantage of these new developments by seeking providers who are specially qualified to meet their needs — and those who advocate on their behalf, rather than forcing patients to advocate for themselves.
For example, when LGBTQ+ individuals seek healthcare services, they can effortlessly explore new therapist and physician options. For example, patients in the trans community can easily switch to virtual providers who specialize in gender-affirming therapy when they feel discriminated against or unheard in sessions with local practitioners.
Similarly, people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds can seek providers who can empathize with their unique experiences. Since diverse healthcare teams are proven to achieve better patient outcomes, people from minority groups can increasingly advocate for themselves by finding providers outside of their communities.
Using Smart Devices for Personalized Care
Health data doesn’t have to be supplied to providers to be effective. As new consumer-facing technologies, such as smart watches and personal EKG monitors, come on the market, patients can now advocate for their own health by contributing to their preventative care. Smart apps — including some period trackers, sleep trackers, and fitness platforms — can suggest personalized recommendations that help people take control of their health.
While patients traditionally only visit doctors for annual checkups unless they run into health concerns, smart devices and apps allow them to make preventative care an ongoing journey. This has the special potential to help high-risk patients, like those with family histories of genetic disorders, take action to reduce their likelihood of developing certain conditions.
Large-Scale Advocacy Is Still Needed for Accessible Health Tech
While health tech is already helping underserved populations advocate for themselves, healthcare still has a ways to go. Health inequities are still persistent and enormous. For example, American Indians and Alaska Natives experience significantly higher rates of diabetes and obesity, while women experience high levels of maternal mortality and often receive low-quality reproductive care.
While health tech has the potential to improve patient outcomes, health tech itself isn’t always accessible. The most advanced technology can be expensive, especially when it comes to newer telehealth treatments that aren’t recognized by insurance providers.
For health tech to empower the entire next generation — rather than specific groups within it — patients, providers, and telehealth companies need to advocate for regulatory changes that make telehealth readily available to everyone.
Health Tech Empowers the Patient
The rise of health tech is key to better patient experiences for the next generation. Rather than relying on a single provider to manage healthcare records and recommend treatment plans, people can take control of their data and proactively seek out the care they need. When a provider doesn’t provide what they’re looking for, telehealth allows patients to seek out other professionals — including those outside of their immediate communities.
Health tech also allows patients to take part in their own preventative care, instead of waiting for their annual doctor’s visits. As long as access to health tech increases, future generations may be equipped for healthcare success.