Accenture Unveils Disparities in U.S. Healthcare, and Suggests Possible Solutions

A new report by Accenture reveals a staggering level of inequity in the U.S. healthcare system, highlighting one of the biggest challenges faced by healthcare organizations today.

The report, titled US Health Inequity: beyond the statistics, breaks down the human and economic impacts of health inequity and analyzes the role U.S. healthcare ecosystem participants can play in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in each case. Grounded in a systematic analysis of peer-reviewed literature and critical opinion leader views, the report collates insights from the firm’s extensive client engagements and attempts to synthesize the leading causes and effects of health inequities.

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Accenture’s report identified five interconnected areas that negatively impact equitable healthcare: implicit bias, where unconscious attitudes or stereotypes can erode quality of care and access for underrepresented patients; lack of trust and fear, with historical mistreatment of people of color (POC) playing a large role in undermining trust in care systems; access barriers, such as affordability of care/medicines and participation in clinical trials; uneven quality and experience, with POC patients consistently receiving worse care and worse outcomes than white patients; and racism in R&D/Clinical practices, which limits the quality of health and research outcomes among underrepresented groups.

The report also addresses the disconnect between healthcare ecosystem players’ attempts to address inequality and the daily lived experiences of underrepresented communities, calling for more relevant, consistent, streamlined, and cohesive efforts. The authors recommend that next-generation efforts focus on three core areas:

1) Mitigating bias in data analytics and algorithms by centering on inclusive, fair, accountable, transparent, and easily explainable development;
2) Designing inclusive products and services by accounting for the different ways people access and experience care; and
3) Creating sustainable structural change by addressing institutional policies and ingraining equity as a core tenant of care.

With residents of the United States paying some of the highest care costs in the developed world while receiving some of the poorest quality outcomes, the healthcare ecosystem has much work to do to improve its offerings and ensure that nobody is left behind. Accenture’s report can help healthcare industry stakeholders take an honest and fearless look at how their current approach is falling short, and what can be done to ensure better care for all.