Patient-Level Data Improves Health Equity

Date: Oct 27, 2023

“We want to understand better who you are and what you need,”

At Emory Healthcare, we understand many factors can impact your well-being and your ability to live a healthy life.

Where you live and how you live affects how easily and often you can access care services. These and other social determinants of health include the economy, education, the environment, food, housing, public safety and transportation.

When your doctors and nurses understand more about your life outside the exam room, our high-quality care can address all aspects of your life.

For this reason, we ask you to share more personal information with us. We don’t want to pry—we just want to help improve health care access for our community.

“We want to understand better who you are and what you need,” says Nicole Franks, MD, chief quality officer at Emory University Hospital Midtown“Your information helps us understand how to care for you.”

Emory Healthcare is on a mission to understand health care inequalities and build trusting relationships with new and ongoing patients. We want patients and their families to feel comfortable enough to “tell us how to identify them and share what represents their culture,” Dr. Franks says. “We want to be intentional and not make any assumptions.”

Your Personal Information Impacts Your Health

When you update your personal information, you make it easier for us to give you the best care. “For example, if you don’t have a car and bus fare is an extra expense, tell us,” says Ildemaro Gonzalez, chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer at Emory Healthcare.

“We can provide transportation vouchers or connect you with a ride-share group,” Gonzalez says.

You can share information like this on our online portal (MyChart), at home, or by talking to your doctor or nurse during an office appointment, hospital visit or in the emergency room.

Data like your income, living situation, race, and sexual orientation and gender identity can greatly impact your health. When health systems started to collect race and ethnicity information, Gonzalez says, they uncovered different conditions and health events affect people of various backgrounds differently.

For example, we now know:

Three times more African American women die during pregnancy than white women

African American men and women experience glaucoma earlier. So, they should start screenings at age 40, while people of other backgrounds can wait until age 60.

Latinx children are more than twice as likely to face hunger as white children and adults.

LGBTQ+ youth are at greater risk for poor mental health, violence, homelessness and HIV than their non-LGBTQ+ peers

Loneliness and social isolation in older adults can put them at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions

Patients with limited English proficiency can spend a longer time in a hospital – as many as 4 days longer for certain conditions

More recent studies show structural racism increases complications, including death rates, for minority patients with diabetes.

“The data allows us to see how we can tailor our services better to improve health outcomes,” Gonzalez says.

Of course, the choice to share personal information is voluntary. The more information we have, the more effectively we can provide the care you need.

Overcoming Barriers to Health Care Access

Whenever a factor in your life changes, it is important to update your health and personal information with your health care provider. This way, if you face an obstacle and cannot receive care, we can provide helpful resources, says Amaka Eneanya, MD, chief transformation officer at Emory Healthcare.

She notes when patients face barriers related to food, housing or safety, they spend their energy there, not on health needs.

“We want patients to understand that social determinants of health determine 80 percent of their health,” Dr. Eneanya says.

If you need expensive medicine and you have to choose between buying groceries or your prescription, tell your doctor or nurse. They can link you to programs with discounts and access to nutritious food.

“Not taking your medicine as directed will negatively impact your health and your life,” Dr. Eneanya says.

Your preferred language can also drive your health care access. You have the right to understand your condition and your treatment. If English is not your preferred language, we offer language assistance from medical interpreters. They ensure you and your family know your treatment options and get answers to your questions.

When you tell us which language you are most comfortable speaking, we can ensure we have the interpreters you need, Dr. Franks says.

Emory Healthcare regularly assesses patient satisfaction with its language assistance. Why? Because clear communication and education are essential to overall health. Gonzalez says current information shows people with a limited understanding of English:

  • Spend almost three more days in the hospital than fluent English speakers
  • Experience more harm from safety incidents than fluent English speakers

“Longer hospital stays can lead to a higher risk of infection and increased costs,” Gonzalez says. “And when you go home, you need to understand what you need to do to recover well.”

Collaborative Health Care Solutions

The entire community must work together to address all factors that impact one’s health, says Bob Dent, chief nursing officer at Emory Decatur Hospital and Emory Long-Term Acute Care.

“We really need to invest more time and energy to help people where they are,” Dent says. “We have opportunities to interact and engage with people and get them the resources they need.”

Partnerships with churches and community agencies can offer education and health screenings. These events can uncover what drives health care decisions, Dent says.

When we match personal data with health system outcomes and look at zip codes, gender identities, aging, ethnicities or race, we can discover disparities.

“Then, we can create new solutions,” Dr. Franks says. “We can provide resources with partners to adjust and improve the conditions that impact people’s health.”

The diverse population Emory Healthcare serves allows us to use new ways to provide more accessible health care, Dr. Eneanya says. These efforts include training new internal medicine doctors in health equity and advocacy to ensure everyone can achieve their highest level of health.

“Focusing on social determinants of health is everyone’s job,” Dr. Eneanya says. “Once we learn, we must provide the best care. We can show what is possible.”

Share Your Information With Us

You can share your personal information with us at any time. 

  • Go online and use the MyChart patient portal.
  • Share details with your emergency room or hospital care team.
  • Talk with your primary care doctor or nurse.

Update Your Information

Register for MyChart

By creating an Emory Healthcare MyChart account you are creating a secure way to access parts of your health records online. It’s simple, safe and often quicker to use MyChart than call the office. With MyChart, you can schedule appointments, chat with your care team and even view test results and renew prescriptions—among many other things. Learn more about your MyChart patient portal and sign up.

Schedule your appointment today.

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