While there has been progress, far more improvement is needed for correcting the racial health disparities in the Black community. And when it comes to benefits—fairness goes beyond offering a comprehensive medical plan. There must be a focus on connecting members with high-quality, affirming care that is best suited for their unique cultural and clinical needs for underserved communities.
In the pursuit of health equity
In 2021, Fortune 500 companies Accenture, Best Buy, Genentech, Medtronic, State Farm, Target, and Walmart came together with Included Health to form the Black Community Innovation Coalition (BCIC). Their goal: close the health equity gap for more than 500,000 Black workers they collectively employ across the country.
Data strengthens connections
In order to provide the right tools and support to underrepresented populations, a deep understanding of the health issues they face is critical. And while external research shows the Black community faces racial disparities in healthcare, we took a deeper look at the experiences of Black employees across our seven BCIC partners. And in turn we were able to uncover unmet needs for the Black community.
Included Health explored challenges by surveying 3,200+ Black employees to uncover what they experience regarding healthcare, and focus groups with 43 employees to uncover the why behind Black employees’ survey responses. From this work, three findings came to the forefront.
3 key findings from Black employee research
>35% experienced race-related bias when using healthcare
More than a third of respondents surveyed shared that they’ve experienced race-related bias in healthcare.
But, what does bias in healthcare look like?
At the core it means healthcare professionals aren’t listening to Black patients. Black respondents in our focus groups discussed that most of the negative experiences are rooted in the harms of providers not listening to their patients or not being actively engaged to understand their Black patients as individuals. Participants also said bias in healthcare looks like: a provider not listening to a patient’s questions, making assumptions about a patient’s lifestyle or condition, and dismissing a patient’s preferences, requests or even pain.
54% of those who experienced bias avoided or postponed care
Negative care experiences and biases in healthcare have multiple negative downstream impacts, including Black employees avoiding or postponing care. This care avoidance and postponement leads to higher usage of urgent care and emergency departments. And this adds up; the average cost of treating common primary care treatable conditions at a hospital emergency department is ~$2,000UnitedHealth Group.
~60% reported searching for new providers
Access to the right primary care provider (PCP) is critically important. Individuals with a PCP see a 33% increase in healthcare savings vs. those who only see specialists for careCommonwealth Fund.
And while about 60% of Black employees are searching for a new provider, 36% are specifically searching for a new PCP. With only 5% of providers across the U.S. identifying as Black or African American, it’s no surprise that Black employees are frustrated when searching for a PCP.
Black employees face an exhausting process when searching for an affirming, clinically-competent provider. Many in our focus groups shared a lengthy process that includes researching providers and conditions, seeking referrals, vetting providers, and regularly hiring and firing providers until they find a good fit.
Research in action: closing the black health disparity gap
Given these learnings, we have identified four primary areas of opportunity where Included Health can support Black members with their healthcare journey.
- Help to grow trust in healthcare
- Increase access to affirming and clinically-competent care
- Improve healthcare literacy and confidence
- Reduce care avoidance
Learn more about how we can address health inequities for your Black employees.
About the author
Our Editorial Team is composed of our leaders, clinicians, and care coordinators, as well as other Included Health employers, all who are working to raise the standard of healthcare for everyone. Together, they combine decades of subject matter experience across all fields of healthcare.