4 Companies Working to Improve Access and Health Equity

The U.S. healthcare industry takes quite a few hits for problems with access and equitable services. Problems recognized for a long time were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare should be about improving the health and wellness of every person, not just a chosen few. Unfortunately, as Walter Cronkite once said: “America’s healthcare system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”

Health Equity

Nonetheless, bright spots in healthcare emerge from time to time, driven by companies large and small. Here are four innovative companies thinking outside the box to improve access and create health equity in their own way.

Nurx

Nurx believes healthcare should be easily accessible to everyone and it shouldn’t be complicated. This growing online provider started with tackling the often sticky issue of sexual health, warts and all. And that’s a good thing.

Take STI testing, for example. Few health issues are as stigmatized and yet, according to the CDC, 1 in 5 people in the United States has one. That’s roughly 68 million diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, herpes, HIV, HPV, syphilis, or trichomoniasis.

Nurx removes the stigma by offering home STI testing kits, online diagnosis and consultations, and home delivery of treatment prescriptions. Patients can use their health insurance for services and prescriptions. Alternatively, patients can pay directly, at affordable prices, if they are uninsured or prefer not to go through their insurer.

Nurx is a game-changer for people embarrassed by STIs. They can talk to a doctor from the privacy of their home and have prescriptions delivered discreetly to their door. The promise of privacy encourages the reluctant to get the diagnosis and treatment they need.

Those not self-conscious about STIs benefit from the convenient access and affordability of Nurx. Even if they choose to talk to their primary care physician about an STI, Nurx can deliver their prescription and shipping is free.

It has been said ironically that an STI is the gift that keeps on giving. A better gift yet is to stop the chain of infection. Nurx offers innovative and equitable access to patients who want to discreetly treat common STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes. That’s a gift well worth paying forward.

Merck

Merck is a multinational pharmaceutical giant with more than 80 products sold in the U.S. Since 2018, the company has also been behind a global initiative with a single ambitious goal: No woman has to die while giving life.

Safer Childbirth Cities aims to lower maternal mortality by encouraging equal access to healthcare. Regardless of a woman’s race, where she lives, or whether she has health insurance, she should have access to competent healthcare.

While maternal mortality rates are dropping worldwide, they continue to climb in the U.S. Equity and access are two key reasons why. Nearly 42% of deaths are among Black women and 28% among Native American and Alaska Native women.

Moreover, it’s true that federal law requires states to provide Medicaid coverage to uninsured low-income women while they’re pregnant. Some states even provide coverage to uninsured women regardless of income. However, a significant number of healthcare providers don’t accept Medicaid assignment, effectively shutting the door on many women.

Furthermore, many deaths are attributable to complications arising from chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Women of color are at greater risk for these diseases and are less likely to have healthcare access to control them.

Safer Childbirth Cities currently encompasses 20 cities in the U.S. By building networks of providers, social services, and holistic care, Merck is working toward providing equitable and life-saving access to moms.

Leidos

Think about an American company you might expect to be fighting the opioid crisis. Does a U.S. defense, aviation, biomedical research, and information technology company spring to mind?

Probably not, but that’s precisely what Leidos is doing. It’s leading efforts to encourage employers to bring addiction and mental health out of the darkness and into the light.

Worsened by the pandemic, opioid deaths exceeded 90,000 in 2020, up from 70,600 in 2019. However, it took only one death in 2016 to spur Leidos CEO Roger Krone to confront the issue and champion solutions.

Krone learned about the death of a long-time employee’s 30-year-old son who had struggled with addiction for years. He was shocked by the number of other employees who had lost loved ones to opioids. Rather than taking a that’s-not-part-of-my-business attitude, Krone jumped all in.

The Leidos CEO Pledge Collaborative targets C-suite execs and senior leaders across all industries. It encourages the prioritization of addiction prevention and mental health services to remove the workplace stigmas associated with these diseases.

In association with the Milken Institute Center for Public Health, Leidos is mobilizing employers of all shapes and sizes. Their efforts are encouraging more and more employers to provide addiction and mental health resources. Resources for millions of employees and their families will make a difference.

Julota

We’ve all seen the videos of someone suffering a physical or mental health crisis in public. Law enforcement arrives, then EMS whisks the person away to an emergency room — if they are lucky. Many times, however, we have also seen law enforcement arrive, arrest the person in crisis, and take them to jail. In both situations, the question arises: What happens to them later?

Many communities have the resources they need to take care of their own. They have law enforcement, EMS, healthcare, behavioral health, and social services. The problem is, efforts are duplicated, unnecessary resources are used, and people fall through the cracks due to nonexistent communication.

Enter Julota, a software platform that connects the dots by automating collaboration among the various organizations. Julota facilitates privacy-compliant communication between all these community resources.

Reports and information from each entity are shared with the other relevant entities. As a result, resources and patient care can be effectively managed from start to finish.

It truly does take a village to care for its most vulnerable. But those villagers need to exchange information to get the job done. That’s what Julota is all about.

Breaking Down Boxes

Part and parcel of problems with equity and access in healthcare are the boxes. This box holds white, middle-class people with employer-sponsored health insurance. That box holds Medicaid beneficiaries, another holds uninsured non-white people, and so on.

Most of the time, people open the boxes they know hold the best gifts. Healthcare providers are people too, and it’s not surprising that they want to get paid for their services. Yet this understandable desire too often means that those who need help the most don’t receive it.

Fortunately, some companies are recognizing the barriers to quality care for every individual. With remarkable foresight and determination, they’re breaking down those boxes that separate people. If there’s going to be a box, we should all be in the same one.

John R. Wright
Social media ninja. Freelance web trailblazer. Extreme problem solver. Music fanatic. Spent several months marketing pubic lice in the financial sector. Spent 2002-2008 supervising the production of ice cream in Africa. Had some great experience developing robotic shrimp in the aftermarket. Spent several years getting my feet wet with puppets in Miami, FL. Was quite successful at supervising the production of corncob pipes worldwide. What gets me going now is working with electric trains in Mexico.