Paving the Path to Health Equity In Outcomes Research

Paving the Path to Health Equity In Outcomes Research

Read time: 5 minutes

  • On average, people from racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. experience lower access to and quality of care, higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions, and increased mortality.
  • TechQuity—the merging of healthcare technology with culturally appropriate treatments and interventions—can help us eliminate these health disparities and achieve health equity for all.
  • One Drop is committing to health equity in our outcomes research by ensuring diverse representation in our studies whenever possible, looking at root causes of inequity, maintaining a feedback loop between us and our members, upholding the proper research standards, and treating our participants as humans first and foremost.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve their health goals, whether they’re working on weight management or taking care of their heart. And yet, we know that people from racial and ethnic minority groups throughout the U.S. experience, on average, lower access to and quality of care, higher rates of chronic conditions—including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease—and increased mortality. As a leader of research in chronic condition treatment and prevention, I’ve seen how these disparities can manifest and the health outcomes they can lead to. So, what will it take to reach not just equality across health outcomes, but equity, wherein every person’s unique circumstances are taken into account when assessing how different treatments and interventions affect their health?

The answer: TechQuity—a strategic development and deployment of technology in healthcare to achieve health equity and reduce (and, eventually, eliminate) health disparities. By merging healthtech with culturally appropriate treatments and frameworks, we can not only achieve more equitable outcomes in our research, but most importantly, we can benefit everyone we serve, especially those who are most impacted by health disparities. In a 2022 report from the Validation Institute, One Drop’s multi-condition support program drove statistically significant health outcomes for people living with chronic conditions, including reductions in blood sugar and blood pressure for One Drop members with prediabetes, diabetes, and/or hypertension who participated in One Drop for more than one month.

These findings not only translate to better health outcomes but also significant savings in medical costs for One Drop members. The same validation report estimates a per-person annual cost savings of more than $1,200 and nearly $1,900 for diabetes and hypertension, respectively.

From where I’m standing, we are at a crossroads in the chronic condition space: We can either be complacent with the status quo of inequitable health outcomes that exist today in our current healthcare system, or we can use healthtech to advance health equity and achieve better health outcomes for all. One Drop is striving toward the latter.

Ensuring Diverse Representation In Research

As part of our commitment to health equity in our outcomes research, whenever possible, One drop will recruit (both virtually and non-virtually) research participants from diverse populations by building and leveraging trusted relationships with community centers, practitioners, researchers, and other local, regional, and national organizations that have direct access to or provide support to underserved populations.

Additionally, we will look to include measurements of race, ethnicity, income, education, healthcare access, and other characteristics that can put people at higher risk of discrimination. We will dive into the data on these subgroups wherever possible so we can better understand how One Drop’s multi-condition program affects different populations and feed those insights back into our program design.

As One Drop puts forward these research proposals, we will also strive to adhere to the necessary principles and tactics to ensure our research is reliable, valid, and transparent.

Zeroing In On Root Causes of Inequity

In order to advance health equity, we need to recognize and understand where inequity stems from in the first place.

Social determinants of health—or conditions in places where you live, work, learn, and play that can affect a wide range of health variables—can drive many of the differences we see in health behaviors and outcomes across different populations and communities. In addition to differences in foundational health determinants like housing, transportation, and water quality, there is also evidence of discrimination and bias in access to and quality of medical care based on race and ethnicity. These factors, taken together, create inequitable access to the health education, screenings, treatments, and support necessary to make healthy choices that lead to healthy outcomes. 

By including more of these root causes in our research, we can then better understand the underlying environmental, economic, social, and psychological factors that lead to differences in health behaviors and outcomes—learnings that will help us develop precision health solutions that consider this important context and address these barriers.

Maintaining a Constant Feedback Loop Between One Drop and Our Members

Each study we conduct is an opportunity to learn something new, not just about our One Drop members, but also what we can do to improve the experience of living with a chronic condition.

With each research project we tackle, we’ll do our best to ensure that the insights we gather about intervention adoption, access, and effectiveness will be fed back into our product, operations, and marketing teams when appropriate to address any areas of opportunity we uncover. By gathering qualitative and quantitative data that helps us gut-check our theories about disparities in health outcomes, we hope to more deeply understand and improve, over time, our program experience, engagement, outcomes, and considerations for life context.

Remembering that Research Participants Are Humans First

The duration of clinical trials in the digital health space may only span three to six months. However, we recognize that the benefits of our program can span far beyond that timeline. After all, chronic conditions are, well, chronic; they persist for a long time and therefore require long-term solutions.

So, as part of our dedication to health equity in our research, we plan to give longer-term access to the One Drop program beyond the usual three- to six-month study durations. We’ll also waitlist those in control groups in our research (wherever appropriate) to ensure that everyone who participates in our studies can ultimately have the opportunity to experience the benefits of One Drop.

Bottom Line: Precision Health Can Achieve Health Equity for All

Precision health is more than just a targeted approach to developing health treatments and preventive programs. These solutions can empower you to take charge of your health by eliminating the barriers that stand between you and continuous, personalized support.

In our commitment to health equity in our outcomes research, we will continue to bring awareness to health inequities, offer actionable advice when appropriate, and keep you updated on our latest research.

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Dr. Lindsday Sears, PhD, VP of Evidence Generation
Feb 23, 2022

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