All of us experience the healthcare system differently based on our backgrounds, beliefs, and values. That’s why our healthcare journeys look different. When we do the analysis, we often find that for the same conditions, different member cohorts use different sites and intensity of care. That’s why health navigation needs to evolve from a one-size-fits-all to a more inclusive, culturally sensitive approach. Leading payers and providers know that helping their members/patients make well-informed decisions is the key to success and the personalized approach to health navigation will be more impactful in reducing the downstream costs attributed to higher acuity care. However, most healthcare organizations lack the tools to understand the correlation between health disparities and outcomes – how ethnicity, race, language, cultural norms, and values impact the decision-making process of our diverse communities. This is resulting in poor engagement, satisfaction, and retention of members with equity gaps and can significantly impact the health outcomes and quality scores at the population level.

inclusive approach to health navigation

People must be understood and supported in the context of their culture – and this is why an inclusive approach to health navigation is critical. This approach takes into account the diversity in socioeconomics, beliefs, and behaviors in the member population and helps members make well-informed choices that match their social, economic, cultural, and linguistic needs. It goes beyond designing custom benefits for target subpopulations, into communication and navigation strategies. With a culturally diverse approach to health navigation, the health plans can deliver a more engaging member experience to increase the effectiveness of care navigation and reduce care gaps.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, members with health disparities view digital solutions as the most trusted and effective way to meet their healthcare needs. Digital health navigation provides an opportunity to hyper-personalize the members’ experience by incorporating cultural, linguistic, social, and economic elements to enhance mobility and improvements that remove barriers to care. The solution takes a data-driven approach to personalize care navigation with member segmentation, coupled with culturally-relevant content design and distribution.

Discovering ‘personas’

patient segmentation for inclusive digital health navigation

It starts with developing a more nuanced understanding of your members’ culture, needs, preferences, and values. Leading consumer brands have used this understanding effectively to create consumer personas and market effectively to the subpopulations. Given that our healthcare data lives in silos and lacks integration and context, a culturally inclusive digital health navigation solution should be built on a strong data foundation that integrates clinical, administrative, social, and work-related data for all members, and creates a unified longitudinal record of each member that provides insights into their unique health journeys. With those insights, healthcare organizations can build a segmentation model to understand how their members’ economic status, beliefs, attitudes, and values influence their interactions with the healthcare system. The segmented model can also be used to design a curated ecosystem around their needs. For example, for a specific member segment, the ecosystem may include a digital front door in a specific language with a provider listing that speaks their language and care settings that work better for their work and lifestyle.

Culturally-relevant guidance

Culturally-relevant digital health guidance

The next step is to follow the steps, both offline and online, that each persona takes along a given healthcare journey. The crucial requirement is to identify the important (and often hidden) pain points that the persona encounters and the resulting areas of opportunity for redesign. For example, members with equity gaps often need—and in many situations want— guidance to make better decisions. An effective digital health navigation solution ensures that the members have the right type of information (e.g., content that is culturally adapted, easy to understand, and from a source they trust), something they often lack today. it is crucial that communications are conscientious and address such inequalities with sensitivity.

To effectively guide members, the system delivers the right information at the right time at each stop along their decision journey. With access to accurate, meaningful, and accessible information, members are more engaged in their care and are empowered to make better decisions about their health.

To build trust with diverse communities, a curated engagement experience is essential. Digital health navigation uses an omnichannel outreach to guide members on their individual healthcare journeys. The goal is to remove the barriers that prevent them from taking action, while encouraging and supporting them at every step, with every touchpoint. Simple steps that improve their experiences can go a long way. For example, just providing members access to self-scheduling can reduce the language barriers they experience when calling the doctor’s offices.

In short, cultural competency is recognized as an essential means of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. By taking an inclusive approach to health navigation, organizations can serve all of their population, and ensure that the transformation of the health services reduces, and not widens health disparities.