Defining Consumer Diversity
When defining the areas that create diversity in healthcare consumers, the following groups should be considered. One area is the elderly population. This is the fastest growing segment of our population that needs improved consumer engagement in regards to health care (Census.gov, 2018). If the elderly were able to become more engaged in their healthcare by use of health information technology they could obtain the benefits healthcare providers offer. However, the barriers are great in relation to how they are able to access information, and how they handle different areas of technology.
The elderly population have difficulty performing tasks such as being able to access patient portals, some of the telehealth areas, and anything having to do with their care being provided using computers, smart phones and similar areas (Haederle, 2011). This segment of the population is living longer, need care to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, and when they cannot take advantage of the services due to barriers, that poses problems. At the same time, while this group is able to live longer, they also are prescribed more medications, and they have no way to keep up with the complexities of organizing dozens of medications without assistance from outside individuals, and or family members. The suffering and stress from situation like this can add to the pain the elderly suffer.
Another area that creates diversity in the consumers of healthcare are the socioeconomical status of individuals, and this needs to be considered. Our poor and underserved population is an area that could be better served if they had access to services, and were more engaged in their healthcare (Bradley, 2015). Not completely different situationally than the elderly population, they often do not have access to the technology, training, or other services that could potentially benefit them in their healthcare. They also might not have access to the training that is needed to use tools such as patient portals, being able to manipulate their health record, and other areas many parts of our population do.
Finally, there are parts of the population that do not have health care at all, and the barriers to engagement in their health care is apparent (Pratt, 2017). There is evidence some will only go to the doctor when it is an emergency, and this could keep them from being proactive in their own care. When they do this, they get situational care, but nothing long term that could help with their overall health. Others who do not have health care will go to the emergency room for any care they need. People that use this type of service could be much more concerned about the bills they receive than actually being engaged in their own care.
This group of people falls more broadly into the diversity situation being discussed. Maybe larger than diversity is the privatized healthcare system that is in place. The way these areas exist are not sustainable, and unless they are addressed they will continue to suffer. In theory a universal type of health care system could help with many of the problems in our system, however with the for-profit situation within nearly all areas of our health care system, this taking place in the near future doesn’t look possible.
Relating Diversity to HIT
Health information technology has the capability to play a large role in engaging diverse populations of healthcare consumers. However, with the groups that were discussed in the previous areas, there are definite barriers for them to take full advantage of health information technology. Many of these individuals do not have access to the tools necessary that would allow them to access many areas of technology. One example of this is the internet. For much of the population this is taken for granted, and is something that is a given for many. However, there are many people who do not have access to this, or cannot afford it, while at the same time do not have the ability to use tools that are associated with health information technology such as patient portals, and other areas related to health information exchanges and the like. At the same time the older population, who might have the means to have access to the internet, do not know how to use it, and again the barrier is in place to not allow them to use health information tools.
Meeting Demands of Diverse Consumers
The first thing that must be done is to provide the majority of our population with the ability to access health information technology. Without this, using the technology would not be possible. For example, and as mentioned previously, access to internet is not readily available for many people. Programs should be put in place so that people have the ability to have access the internet, and then in turn use the products available to them. There are some programs available for underserved individuals such as the ConnectHome program (Fung, 2015). These types of programs, and others will be a good first step to assisting those with no access to the health information technology tools they could be using.
Another step to helping people access their health information is to educate individuals on the use of the programs, and the technology. Reaching out to the individuals who have the need to learn how to use the technology with educational programs can help them become engaged and provide them with valuable tools they need to navigate this vast area. These types of programs can help many groups of people in need, including the underserved, the elderly, and any others that don’t have the means, or other tools to access health information technology, and other areas related to their health care.
There are many areas of diversity that need to be considered in relation health information technology, and the health care of consumers. The elderly population is the fastest growing segment of our population that needs improved consumer engagement in regards to health care (Census.gov, 2018). If the elderly were able to become more engaged in their healthcare by use of health information technology they could enjoy many of the benefits providers available to them. Another area is the socioeconomical status of individuals, and our poor and underserved population could also be served better in the health information technology areas if they had access to services, and were more engaged in their health care (Bradley, 2015).
Health information technology has the capability to play a large role in engaging diverse populations of healthcare consumers. However, there are definite barriers for individuals to take full advantage of health information technology. The first thing that must be done is to provide the majority of our population with the ability to access health information technology. Without this, using the technology would not be possible. Another step to helping people access their health information is to educate individuals on the use of the programs.
These types of programs can help many groups of people in need, including the underserved, the elderly, and any others that don’t have the means or other tools to access health information technology, and further work needs to be done to make this happen.
Bradley, E. H., Taylor, L. A., & Fineberg, H. V. (2015). American health care paradox: Why spending more is getting us less. New York: Public Affairs.
- Fung, B. (2015, July 15). The government found a smart way to connect the poor to the Internet: Put it in public housing. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/07/15/the-government-found-a-smart-way-to-connect-the-poor-to-the-internet-put-it-in-public-housing/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f171e36c4c23
- Haederle, M. (2011, August 29). Technology Fear Stops Older Adults From Logging On Computer – AARP Bulletin. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/technology/innovations/info-08-2011/elderly-fear-of-technology.html
- Pratt, E. (2017, November 8). Why Do So Many People Still Go to the Emergency Room? Retrieved November 1, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/medical-care-in-emergency-rooms#6
- US Census Bureau. (2018, October 10). Older People Projected to Outnumber Children. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/cb18-41-population-projections.html