Addressing Health Disparities and Improving Access to Care in a Post-COVID World

Addressing Health Disparities and Improving Access to Care in a Post-COVID World

by Ashley McEvoy, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Medical Devices, Johnson & Johnson

Ashley McEvoy
Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Medical Devices
Johnson & Johnson
LaShawn McIver, MD, MPH
Director, Office of Minority Health

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

COVID-19 has solidified to the world the importance of health care. It has shown us how we can propel our ingenuity forward and deliver life-saving innovations with speed. It has shown how new patient pathways like telehealth and digital health solutions can help the 7 billion people on this planet to take control on their health. And it has underscored the critical need to put a sharp focus on the importance of achieving health equity.

At the recently wrapped AdvaMed MedTech Conference, I was joined by Dr. LaShawn McIver, Director of the Office of Minority Health for the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) in a robust discussion about how the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for transformative change and rapid progress across our industry to address disparities in care.

Before the pandemic, these disparities were striking: Black Americans are 70 percent more likely to die from a stroke; Black Americans are 72 percent more likely to be diabetic; and Black men are 15 percent more likely to have lung cancer. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only added to these disparities.

During the panel Dr. McIver shared her perspective on how the MedTech industry can work with government and other public agencies to propel change. She also shared her thoughts on how we can work collectively to overcome barriers to access, as well as addressing implicit bias, equity in telehealth, and more.

I applaud the efforts by Dr. McIver and CMS to address health inequities within the Medicare program, beginning with the fundamental recognition that equity in health encompasses race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, physical disability, geography, language, and more. CMS’s commitment to address persistent disparities across all these coordinates in health care access, quality, and outcomes is demonstrated by the CMS Equity Plan for Medicare. The plan aims to increase understanding and awareness of health disparities, develop and share solutions to improve health equity, and implement actions to end inequities in health – both within the agency and with its health care industry partners. As the largest purchaser of health care in the United States, the potential impact on health equity that CMS can achieve with this commitment is immense.  

Likewise, as the largest health care company in the world with 135 years of experience, we at Johnson & Johnson have a unique opportunity to work alongside government and our health care industry partners to make meaningful progress in this critical area as well. In fact, we intend to be a catalyst in this mission and have big goals: provide significant access, deliver better outcomes, and profoundly impact the people who count on us every day. Our resolute approach to addressing established structural and systemic inequities is key to improving global health. In fact, last year, Johnson & Johnson launched the Our Race to Health Equity initiative with a $100 million commitment to help achieve the goal.

AdvaMed is equally engaged in these efforts to ensure our industry is doing its part — I’m proud to serve as a member of AdvaMed’s Executive Committee, and to work in an industry and for a company that supports action to confront and address systemic racism, inequality, and lack of resources in communities of color. To learn more about this work, please click here.