The U.S. healthcare industry has contributed to a system of inequality, particularly among black and brown Americans. According to the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute that’s dedicated to improving the lives of all citizens, Africans Americans are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured as non-Hispanic whites. Also, 13.8% of African Americans report having fair or poor health compared to 8.3% of their white counterparts. They are also more likely to face obstacles when accessing healthcare, including unconscious bias and implicit racism. In the age of COVID-19, black people are 3.57 times more likely to die from the disease than white people.
Studies show that minority Americans tend to receive better care when they are treated by providers of the same race or ethnicity.
However, there just aren’t enough black doctors and physicians to go around. Among all active physicians in the U.S., 56.2% identified as white, 17.1% identified as Asian, and 5.8% identified as Hispanic, while just 5.0% identified as black or African American.
A new tech startup known as Spora Health aims to fix this issue by helping black patients access providers with similar backgrounds. The program is set to go live today in Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Find out how this new app could change the patient-provider relationship for the better.
Connecting Black Patients to Black Providers
The program works like a normal app on your smartphone. Patients can sign up for $9.99 per month. On the first visit, patients with insurance will pay their usual co-pay, while those without insurance will pay a one-time fee of $99. They will then be able to access providers at little to no cost.
The company says it will focus on telemedicine to start, but it hopes to create a network of in-person providers of color across the country, so black patients can meet with a professional close to home. Not all providers listed on the app identify as black, but they have been trained in the issues facing the black community. The app is made up of talented providers working across a variety of disciplines, including primary care doctors, doctors, nurse practitioners, nutritionists and more.
“An equitable healthcare system has never existed in America, especially for black folks and that is the goal,” says founder and CEO Dan Miller.
The program uses complex algorithms to predict and assign risk profiles to patients with pre-existing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, emphysema and more.
Miller says the program is also about making healthcare affordable again, particularly for those without insurance or a full-time job. “Being a young startup, we can compete on price,” Miller said. “For us, we can make the offering more affordable because we have less overhead as well as tech that allows us to be more thoughtful.”
How to Sign Up
As a trained healthcare professional, if you’re interested in expanding your services to more patients of color, you can apply to join the Spora Health network. You will be asked to participate in the interview process, while taking classes at the Spora Health Institute, an online platform for helping providers overcome their unconscious bias.
“We want to over-index on providers of color, but supply and demand doesn’t match up,” Miller said. “There’s a shortage of providers of color becoming physicians. So, we need to invest in the reeducation of providers.”
Many medical schools try to address these issues in the classroom, but many don’t go far enough when it comes to reducing unconscious bias.
“Within med school, there is a curriculum around health equity but that only happens in the first year of the program,” Miller said. “What tends to happen by the end of residency is that a lot of these implicit biases tend to surface again because the training curriculum and environment does not incorporate equity and doesn’t think about disparities in certain populations.”
It’s a great way for providers of all different backgrounds to further their understanding of the black community and the issues they face, while recognizing that implicit bias is still very much alive within the U.S. healthcare industry.
If you know patients who are looking for providers that share their race or ethnicity, Spora Health is here to help. Keep an eye out for this new software program as it expands to more regions across the U.S.