In recent years, a justifiable spotlight has been cast on pervasive health inequities throughout the U.S. healthcare system.

Organizations such as the Center for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS), the Center for Disease Controls (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched efforts to learn more about health-related social needs and technological advancements that can be utilized in the pursuit of health equity. These initiatives are commendable-- and it’s imperative to collect an abundance of information on these subjects — but the work to remedy health inequity is just beginning.

To better understand what policies or practices need to be implemented to achieve accessible and quality care for all Americans, extensive research much be conducted so all action is data-driven and well-informed. However, research initiatives that compile troves of data are only advantageous if the data is properly organized and utilized. With an advanced healthcare data management system, this goal can be achieved.

In addition, the implementation of modern data management solutions can relieve strain on federal healthcare workers — a less often discussed, but significantly beneficial, tactic for delivering healthier outcomes to patients.

According to Healthy People 2030, 1 in 10 Americans lack health insurance. Specific populations, such as ethnic minorities, face systemic challenges related to healthcare accessibility and quality of care.

CMS serves the most vulnerable populations in the U.S., including the elderly and the impoverished. By reducing the administrative burden on federal health employees, a significant amount of time can be repurposed to give back to patients who depend on critical government healthcare services.

Administrative burden

Reducing the administrative burden requires proper organization of tasks across the board. In April 2022, the Office of Management and Budget released an Executive Order to improve and identify discrepancies in how federal agencies maintain public programs. The first step to relieve the daily strains healthcare workers face is data management.

A prevalent challenge across the federal space is health organizations are overwhelmed with information. Making sense of an abundance of data from disparate systems is taxing for federal health agencies. Moreover, when data records are maintained improperly, they may not be indicative of the true state of a given patient’s health, which can result in improper care, diagnosis, and treatment. Comprehensive healthcare data management and analysis can ensure the veracity of critical health information, meaning providers can efficiently address patient needs.

Security and data integrity is vital when managing healthcare data and should be embedded at the beginning of every data management solution. Unfortunately, modern threat actors and vulnerabilities are increasingly complex, meaning that health IT leaders must continually evolve their security protocols. Certain automated security tools can be adopted to reduce the demands on cybersecurity professionals. Capabilities such as continuous monitoring, threat detection, network penetration testing and endpoint security should be considered by federal health agencies to ensure their data is well defended.

The accuracy of data is also paramount, which is why healthcare data management platforms maintain updated essential health information to enable informed decision making. Additionally, if providers don’t have to spend time to validate data and other administrative tasks, they’re free to dedicate their time to better serving those in medical need.

After an organization has confidence in the accuracy and integrity of its data, the second hurdle to be addressed with data management is interoperability. The primary benefit of interoperability is real-time data sharing between patients and care providers. There are many stakeholders involved in the healthcare industry and when they can all seamlessly access the patient data and materials they need, the time saved on administrative and logistical coordination is tremendous. That time, and the associated funding, can be repurposed on patient care and effectively minimize health disparities.

Mature data management

Once mature data management strategies and policies are adopted, the possibilities for improvements in the healthcare landscape are extensive. Achieving health equity is not an overnight task, however, recent federal initiatives to address this critical issue are an admirable step toward better understanding how modern technology can help to achieve health equity in the U.S.

Everyone deserves to be healthy, and as such, mitigating health disparities must remain a priority for the federal health landscape so that progress is consistent and relevant. Notably, preventative health measures are almost always less costly and strenuous than reactive, emergency care. Therefore, not only will decreasing health disparities improve the wellness of underserved communities, but it will reduce strain on the entire federal healthcare system.

Health equity isn’t the easiest issue to tackle, but it is undeniably worth addressing to save lives and help all people live as healthy a life possible.

Kamala Green is Social Drivers of Health Program manager at National Government Services, a provider of IT services to federal health agencies.

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This article is an Op-Ed and the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please email C4ISRNET and Federal Times Senior Managing Editor Cary O’Reilly.

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