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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Academics & Research

College of Medicine chairperson discusses healthcare inequalities

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The UH College of Medicine chair highlights healthcare discrepancies among different races as coronavirus cases rise.

The number for new daily coronavirus cases is over 7,600 as of April 30, according to the Houston Chronicle. The percent of positive test results for the virus remains in the double digits; Texas cases nearing half a million.

“There is unequal access and unequal treatment based on race, ethnicity and wealth, which stem from racism, bias and insurance policies,” said chair of Health Systems and Population Health Sciences at the UH College of Medicine Winston Liaw.

The Texas Medical Center’s figures this week showed that their Phase One intensive care capacity is almost full, in which the medical center will inevitably move to Phase Two of intensive care.

TMC’s Phase Two intensive care capacity would mean that certain wings of hospitals may be converted to temporary ICU beds to handle the influx of patients, providing care for those with or without the virus.

The increase of has raised questions in the medical community as this virus is disproportionately affecting minority groups.

African Americans and Latinos have been three times more susceptible to contracting the virus and twice as likely to succumb to the illness compared to their white counterparts, according to The New York Times

Liaw said that this weakness in the healthcare system has always existed, but has been made more noticeable by the pandemic. Minorities dying at a disproportionately higher number sheds light on the economic and racial disparities that affect the access to healthcare for these patients.

Poor economic situations, lack of sufficient nutrition and less access to healthcare could contribute to how hard COVID-19 is hitting minority communities, according to KPRC.

“Our system works well for those with resources but not for those most in need,” said Liaw. 

Liaw said that the people who have the resources have access to insurance, jobs that allow social distancing, technology for virtual interactions and access to healthcare services.

Those without resources have few or none of these privileges and instead have untreated diseases due to limited access to adequate health care services. 

Virtual appointments helped quality healthcare become more accessible for patients who don’t have reliable forms of transportation or childcare.

Although this could eliminate some disadvantages for patients, Liaw said it highlights another disparity between white and minority patients as many of them don’t have devices or access to the internet to attend televisits.

Liaw offered a potential solution to the quality and cost of healthcare to help it become more widely available. He said that a value-based payment for healthcare could aid in alleviating the disparity of access to quality healthcare.

This would mean that instead of clinicians being paid despite the quality of care, they are paid by how they are improving the care they are providing and reducing the cost.

“Unfortunately, value-based payment is not a panacea and will not lead to better outcomes for all without insurance expansion, greater integration between medicine and public health and stronger incentives for payers and clinicians to eliminate disparities,” said Liaw.

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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