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Marginalized Populations Continue to Struggle for Access to Healthcare

Posted on May 23, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

I recently had the privilege of attending the annual #Cinderblocks5 event in Grantsville MD. Organized by the incredible Regina Holliday, this event is a blend of art school, community town-hall, healthcare update, and patient rally. It is definitely not your typical healthcare conference. This was my third year attending and every year I get more out of the event.

The only thing I can compare #Cinderblocks5 to is summer camp. Remember going to camp in the middle of nowhere – seeing old friends and meeting new ones while doing things you don’t normally do? That’s kind of what #Cinderblocks5 is like. It’s the only event on my calendar where I will hear a plea from an HIV-positive patient about the need for better access, followed by an update from a local community leader about the latest in affordable housing, followed by a walking tour with a park ranger.

Set in the idyllic hills of Northwestern Maryland, Grantsville is a tiny little community that is a stone’s throw from Interstate 68. It was historically a stop on the National Road (US Route 40) which once carried thousands of pioneers. The town of 800 is now home to a budding artisan community and has one of the best hidden gems of a restaurant I have ever eaten at – The Cornucopia Café.

Of course the town is now the home of my good friend Regina Holliday: speaker, tireless advocate and community leader. She is the force of nature who created the #TheWalkingGallery which I am honored to be a member of.

Although there is never a planned theme to #Cinderblocks5 events, one always emerges. For me, the theme of this year’s event was marginalized populations and their access (or lack of access) to healthcare. The first speaker was none other than Amy Edgar APRN, CRNP, FNP-C @ProfAmyE who spoke about her work pioneering mental health work at Children’s Integrated Center for Success @CICSuccess. Access to mental health services remains a challenge – especially for those who need it most: marginalized people.

We later heard from Heather Hanline, Executive Director of the Dove Center @dovecenter_gc –  which provides safety, advocacy and counseling to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. There is such a need (unfortunately) for these types of services in rural communities, a point made by Hanline several times in her impassioned presentation. Without the Dove Center, trauma survivors would have to drive miles into the big cities to get help.

We also heard from Robb Fulks @TheIncredibleF. Fulks is an incredible human being. For almost his entire life the odds have been stacked against him. He has numerous comorbidities including HIV. As if that is not enough he is coping on a shoestring budget. In the past Fulks has spoken out against the rising cost of life-sustaining medications that used to be <$20 and against exclusionary tactics by insurance companies. This year Fulks said the most powerful line at #Cinderblocks5:

Other speakers at #Cinderblocks5 included:

  • Ashley Elliott a recovering addict (sober since 2012) who talked about how she battles the stigma in her small town and how there is a lack of recovery programs in rural communities
  • Michael Mittelman @mike_mitt who highlighted how poorly living organ donors are treated by the healthcare system after their life-saving gift is given
  • Jade Kenney and Kendra Brill who spoke about their struggle to build a safe haven (Rainbow Bridge Home – https://www.rainbowbridgehome.org/) for the LGBTQIA community in a rural setting and how they were/are both marginalized by “polite society”

Being at #Cinderblocks5 was a poignant reminder that: (a) art, music and reflection are as much a part of healthcare as IT, workflows and treatment regiments; (b) there is no substitute for in-person meetings; and (c) that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to people at the margins of healthcare. Whether it’s because of economics, social norms, mental health issues or belief systems, there are many people who do not have access to healthcare that need our help. We cannot forget about these people when designing the health systems of the future and the Health IT solutions that will power them.

Use Of E-Health Technologies Growing Internationally

Posted on May 8, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

While much of the discussion in Twitter forums and the like focuses on U.S.-based e-health use, here and there stories crop up of intriguing ways e-health technologies can help transform healthcare in developing nations.  This week, we got a more comprehensive look at the global picture.

The World Health Organization has just issued a report outlining the rapid pace at which mobile health use is expanding in low- and medium-income countries around the world.  In many of these nations, mobile health programs are emerging, in part because public use of computers and mobile phones is increasing, the WHO notes.

The WHO report focuses on privately-funded programs, as reliable government data is difficult to obtain. The private data WHO uses comes from the Center for Health Market Innovations, which has been collecting data on public health programs in developing nations since 2007.

By U.S. standards, mhealth programs in developing countries are still in their infancy. Only 176 of the 657 the public health programs WHO looked at in  Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and VietNam were using communications tech to improve healthcare.

Among the main technologies providers used were telehealth-related, given that in many cases patients were a long distance away from any form of direct care.  For example, “video chat” programs and phone hotlines offering access to doctors are emerging quickly.   Key conditions addressed by telehealth programs are emergency care, tuberculosis, mental health, malaria, general primary care, maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS.

While these programs show promise, there’s one roadblock which isn’t likely to go away quickly — money.  Apparently, about half of the mhealth activity tracked by the report is funded by private sources, which limits their growth. Also, text-driven programs which have worked well in the U.S. and other industrialized nations aren’t nearly as effective, as many residents of these countries are illiterate.