S.Some of the best business opportunities in healthcare involve developing technologies to analyze and address the factors that contribute to health inequalities. These opportunities have the potential to help people, especially those who continue to be neglected or not served at all by today’s health system. Maintain good health through proactive, comprehensive care and reduce the need for visits to doctors and hospitals.
Social factors of health are those aspects of life outside health care that affect an individual’s health. They make up 80% of an individual’s health.
Social factors include where you live, housing conditions, food access, transportation, degree of education received, and financial security. No access to safe places to exercise and less sleep for your life if that means no healthy food and affordable transportation to better grocery stores. If conditions are bad, you are much more likely to eat poorly, become stressed, become ill, and end up in the emergency room.
Addressing the social drivers of health is often left to government programs and policies, which are politically susceptible and lack innovation and speed. As such, unhealthy lifestyles as a result of unhealthy environments remain a major problem. But a huge problem is fertile soil for innovative, world-changing founders to build new companies.
My wife, Andrea, and I have seen the impact of social drivers firsthand. After I retired as her CEO of Merck, I co-founded a clinic with her, providing quality medical care to my old neighborhood in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. We quickly realized that many of the residents’ health problems were the result of a lack of access to fresh, healthy food. People in communities with little access to healthy foods are forced to resort to processed, fatty foods, and are more likely to eventually develop conditions such as diabetes and arterial blockages.
Social factors of health negatively affect a far greater proportion of low-income minority populations, who are more likely to live in areas without good grocery stores. You are more likely to live in substandard conditions. They are also more likely to abandon preventive care for financial and health reasons.
Nearly 10% of black Americans do not have health insurance, compared to 5% of white Americans. Covid-19 has also revealed a shortage of healthcare in rural America. More than 180 rural hospitals have closed over the past decade, forcing many residents of small towns to travel hours to see a doctor.
Improving social impetus for health has typically been a matter of the public health sector. There have been some notable successes, including effective sewage systems, safer drinking water, reduced air pollution, and anti-smoking campaigns. All of these have extended the lives of everyone, including marginalized people.
But the best way to understand and address social factors and health inequalities today is to build companies that benefit from solving such problems. No one company can do it all. It will require a fundamental collaboration between an interoperating enterprise and technology ecosystem and the existing healthcare system.
Many companies are showing the way, including Cityblock Health, the portfolio company of General Catalyst where I work. Founded in 2017, Cityblock uses software and partnerships with insurance companies and hospitals to bring healthcare to low-income people. The company is now worth over $6 billion.
Another is daddy. The company has found that seniors who live alone are less likely to get sick and need expensive medical care if they have a companion and a little help in their lives. builds a platform for matching young people with the elderly, and uses this platform to offer services such as telemedicine and chronic disease management to help seniors live at home and avoid going to hospitals. offers.
Here are some of the opportunities for company founders looking to tackle health inequalities to consider.
Collecting data on social factors
Data is the key to health assurance. This is a new category of health care that uses technology to help everyone stay healthy and in control of their condition, with little need for “treatment of the sick” in hospitals and clinics. .
Electronic medical records contain health data such as prescriptions, heart rate, and lab work, but contain little information about social factors of health and data linking them to other medical conditions. is also not included. In other words, medical professionals have no empirical evidence to show how the social needs of patients affect their health.
According to a study published in Health Affairs, health professionals are “often flying blind with a lack of data on both the social needs of patients and the capabilities of potential community partners.” That’s what I mean.
Companies that collect data on the social factors of health, relate them to health outcomes, and analyze the data to help people find better ways to stay healthy and manage chronic diseases. Very valuable. I could see pharmaceutical companies wanting to be customers. It helps us understand why a drug is more or less successful in a particular population. Health insurance companies will also find such information valuable.
Creating such a pool of data is no doubt difficult, but the future of healthcare really depends on someone doing it right.
Linking healthcare to social services
It is astonishing that there is no integrated database of entities providing social services that can improve health. For example, a doctor treating a patient with diabetes who lives in a food desert could open the app and find subsidized fresh food delivery services that help improve the patient’s diet. you can’t.
Achieving health means connecting all aspects of health. Physicians should be able to prescribe health-enhancing social services as easily as they prescribe pills. America needs companies that make it possible.
Improving health literacy
In my old neighborhood, some of the diabetics don’t show up at the doctor’s office until their condition is so bad that they need to have their legs amputated due to diabetes-related circulatory problems. Any tool that could encourage people to get screened for breast or colon cancer, diabetes, or heart health would be very beneficial. Many economically disadvantaged people are ill-informed about their health and healthcare options to get the help they need before they become ill or critically ill.
We understand the need for companies to create health literacy applications aimed at marginalized populations. They tend to research their health (perhaps over-investigate!) and have easy access to medical care. But those less fortunate need guidance that they feel applies to them.
more virtual care
It is impossible to train enough doctors and build enough hospitals to provide easy access to care for all Americans. Quality care is particularly out of reach for those living in urban centers and rural towns. The solution in this era of mobile devices and cloud computing is virtual care.
Of course, telemedicine already exists. And in the early days of Covid-19, it was supposed to go mainstream. Perhaps it’s like the early days of video conferencing, when apps like WebEx were used only occasionally until the pandemic and Zoom collided and video calls became as common as voice calls. The beauty of Zoom is that it’s robust and easy to use. We need Zoom-like advances in telemedicine and business models that make telemedicine work for people in rural and urban areas.
Our mission at General Catalyst is to partner with founders to enable startups that address the social drivers of health and health disparities. Health assurance companies shape the future of our collective health and wellness, bringing technologies and solutions that enable proactive, comprehensive care that is truly accessible to all and serves the wider society. increase.
Ken Frazier is Chairman of the Health Assurance Initiative at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm, and current Executive Chairman and former CEO of Merck. He is also co-founder and co-chair of He OneTen, a coalition of organizations committed to upskilling, hiring, and promoting one million Black Americans to jobs that sustain families.