A Medika Editorial
Covid-19 has, in many ways, provided really useful insights into the underlying mechanics of the American healthcare system. Not only has it exposed glaring systemic inadequacies, but it has also highlighted the strength and character of the second most important tier of healthcare, the people that provide the care. They never wavered.
The first group on that healthcare tier, in any system that seeks to ensure equitable public health, is the patient. Healthcare exists to care for, treat, and to heal the patients it serves. That is, or should be, the mantra of every individual caregiver who signs up at the door of healthcare.
Yet, for various reasons, quality-of-care disparities based on race, gender and ethnic classifications still exist within American healthcare. Covid-19 has highlighted these in ways the industry can no longer ignore. Race-based health outcomes have gone public.
The simple process of vaccine distribution, for example, has been an object lesson in the power of external forces, outside the sphere of healthcare, to dictate the quality of care certain patient groups experience.
Harsh fact. If you’re poor, Black, Asian, Hispanic, or a member of any other minority group in modern day America, expect inferior care and poorer health outcomes. We know this to be fact. Covid data has removed any wiggle room from the argument.
The American healthcare system is biased in favor of middle class and wealthy white patients.
Feels uncomfortable reading that, doesn’t it? Fact though. You can’t argue with figures, only interpret them with the intent of obfuscating the truth or seeking it.
The only question that now remains to be addressed is this.
Is healthcare itself to blame for the bias or does the bias stem from healthcare’s dependency on external agents? Governments, politicians, agencies, and other parties linked to healthcare. In the end, the question itself is moot. Healthcare has to be accountable for what happens in healthcare.
Only when the industry is able to assume responsibility for its failure to provide equitable care, will it be able to effectively coalesce toward solution-driven action. Allocating blame to third parties is tantamount to the indefensible ‘he made me do it’ plea. It is “our house” and we are honor-bound to ensure the safety of all who enter it.
Amplifying the ills that ail us
It’s a Rosa Parks moment for healthcare and WE, the privileged, need to stand and offer our seats. Those petitioning for change within the industry, crying out for equitable and accessible care, an end to gender bias, and seeking to bring balance to the industry, need to be heard. It is our responsibility to ensure they are. That their concerns and the demographic they speak for be placed front and center where we can shine a spotlight on the decades of shame we have enabled through our silence.
We cannot, in good conscience, move forward with an industry that is not fit for purpose. It detracts from the good we achieve and history will judge us accordingly. How can progress truly be described as progress, when we continue to contradict the very premise that led to the creation of the profession. First, do no harm.
I know what I intend to do. I know what Medika intends to do. We have assumed our responsibility, along with the rising crescendo of voices seeking equity for the people they care for. No more.
The world will not change to accommodate the lofty goals of healthcare. Healthcare needs to change the world. Together, one united voice and the walls of Jericho will tumble. Only, and only if, we call out in unison.
Let’s look back in pride, ten or twenty years from now, knowing that we’ve taken ownership of our profession, assumed responsibility, and empowered change. It is so simple and yet so hard. Will you join us?