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The Health Industry’s Progress Toward Equity and Eliminating Disparities: A Look at Medtech Innovators

July 10, 2023
4:51 pm

Previously on this site, we took a look at some of the initiatives Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) members in the biopharmaceutical and care delivery sectors are taking to advance equity within our healthcare system and eliminate disparities.

This remains a strong priority for HLC and its membership from all sectors of American healthcare. Our members have formally and repeatedly made clear their commitment to ensuring that all citizens have access to high-quality healthcare and the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives. They are devoting significant resources and innovative spirit to achieving this goal.

Today in this space we’re going to examine what three of the nation’s leading medical technology companies are doing to advance health equity.  Again, it is important to note that we are only providing brief summaries, not the full extent of how these organizations have devoted themselves to this important cause.

Baxter has a long-term, multidimensional, initiative, ACT: Activating Change Today, to fight racial injustice globally and is taking action to achieve meaningful, sustainable change. There are several examples of recent progress, including:

  • Partnerships with several Historically Black Colleges and Universities to provide grants and scholarships to support Black students pursuing health and science degrees. Additionally, the Baxter International Foundation partnered with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to establish the Baxter HBCU STEM Scholars Program, a three-year, $3.5 million initiative that funds scholarships and mentoring to support students at HBCUs pursuing careers in STEM and education.
  • Partnerships with the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and The Links, Incorporated to expand the Black Kidney Awareness Resources and Education (K.A.R.E.) program which seeks to raise awareness of chronic kidney disease in Black communities across the U.S. and offers actionable tips and guidance for improving kidney health and managing kidney disease. It has reach more than three million community members.
  • The creation of a Critical Care Racial Disparities Advisory Board to understand why Black patients are disproportionately impacted by health disparities in critical care and identify what actions to take to address health disparities. Baxter also partners with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to help strengthen community initiatives that aim to address healthcare disparities affecting Black people, and with the National Minority Quality Forum to address its healthcare policy and equity objectives.

Johnson & Johnson partners with multiple community-based organizations to reach underserved populations and strengthen ties to the community. These include:

  • Working with the National Hispanic Medical Association to develop and strengthen resources and curricula for preparing and equipping physicians for cultural competence in the communities they serve, including a commitment to work with the Alliance of Multicultural Physicians to reach as many communities as possible with culturally relevant resources and materials that support culturally competent care.
  • Engagement with the National Minority Quality Forum to address health inequities through policy. As a founding partner of NMQF’s newly-formed Institute for Equity in Health Policy and Practice, J&J is working with the organization and other community partners to define the policy and structural alignment necessary to build on our system’s strengths for the 21st century and beyond.
  • The Healthy Lifestyle Hub: Bridge to a Whole, Healthy You (BTWHY) Food & Wellness Program is a patient-centric clinical and social care solution for disadvantaged populations. Through a coordinated effort of Johnson & Johnson, Mile Square Health Center, University of Illinois College of Applied Sciences, and Huron Consulting Group, the aim of this program is to improve clinical outcomes and reduce barriers to wellness for Mile Square patients who seek care at the Healthy Lifestyle Hub in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham Community.
  • A close partnership with the National Urban League and many other community and multicultural organizations to address a number of health equity issues in communities across the country through the “My Health Can’t Wait” platform, through which healthcare professionals have a comprehensive hub of resources to help their patients understand the steps being taken for their safety.

J&J also has a well-established holistic approach to increasing diversity in clinical trials, investing at local and federal levels to improve policies, programs and practices that currently impede full representation and prevent tangible and equitable outcomes. The company has worked with hundreds of partners to enable change through policy. Additionally, its Research Includes Me platform serves to reach underrepresented communities by meeting them where they are on the ground through digital activities, partnering with trusted voices, and addressing barriers to participation in clinical trials.

Stryker is committed to driving evolution in clinical development to support health equity. The company recognizes that increased diversity in clinical trials leads to better patient outcomes. Efforts have begun within its clinical trials to address this need by tracking diversity and conducting outreach to underserved populations. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased use of pulse oximeters. But emerging evidence from real-world studies suggested that pulse oximeter performance could be impacted by skin tone, creating potential for treatment delay and poor outcomes. In response, Stryker’s Sustainability Solutions reprocessing business completed a clinical study that successfully enrolled a diverse patient population and demonstrated the accuracy of its reprocessed pulse oximeters in adult patients across all skin tones.

Additionally, Stryker considers disease prevalence in patient populations when determining enrollment in trials, and its R&D clinical teams emphasize the importance of diversity of perspective in clinical development. For example, scarcity of care and lack of infrastructure are barriers to stroke treatment in many parts of the world. In response, Stryker’s Neurovascular Division opened a state-of-the-art facility in India designed to accelerate stroke-related innovation in the Asia-Pacific region. Driven to improve patient outcomes, this facility offers a simulated neurovascular catheterization lab and opportunities for hands-on training and collaboration among customers, product development engineers, and other key stakeholders.

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