Breaking down communication barriers: how technology improves health equity 

In healthcare, effective communication is not just a convenience. It can be a matter of life and death. Yet, for millions worldwide, communication barriers serve as formidable obstacles to accessing quality care. In fact, one in two individuals encounter communication hurdles, which, if unaddressed, can lead to dire consequences. 

Shockingly, individuals from ethnic minorities face a staggering 25 times higher risk of maternal mortality when faced with communication barriers, according to midwife and equalities champion Maria Rowntree. In the NHS, problems with interpreting services contributed to patient deaths, according to the BBC

However, the issues faced are not limited to interpreting and translation. Patients may have literacy problems, sensory impairment or cognitive issues. 

Witnessing these challenges firsthand during the Covid-19 pandemic spurred me to action. Recognising the urgent need to overcome communication barriers in healthcare, alongside my husband Tim we embarked on a mission to develop CardMedic. 

Driving down inequity and inequality by widening access to care 

CardMedic is a groundbreaking technological advancement aimed at dismantling communication barriers in healthcare. By providing on-demand access to thousands of clinically-interpreted interactions in nearly 50 languages, as well as formats such as EasyRead and sign language, CardMedic empowers both patients and healthcare professionals to engage in clearer, more effective conversations about care. 

Accessibility is key to CardMedic’s success. Staff have an instant solution at the point of care that is five times faster than accessing telephone interpreting solutions. CardMedic also comes without the uncertainties that surround using online translation tools or friends and family for interpreting or translation. 

Improving access to care is essential if healthcare is to address rising inequality and drive down inequity, especially when the most deprived communities may have the highest concentration of patients with communication issues. Faced with these challenges, these people may be least likely to engage fully with their care, with devastating and costly results.  

Health equality looks to provide equal access to care and services. Health equity refers to a fair and just distribution of care, and recognises that different groups require varying levels of support to overcome health disparities.  

CardMedic improves the accessibility of the care to all, which leads to greater health equality and health equity.  Healthcare professionals can communicate with individuals directly about their care, ensuring that everyone can be cared for equitably. Such responsiveness can be crucial, especially in some of the most urgent or unplanned situations. 

Safe and reliable communication for equality in maternity and cancer care 

The NHS is looking to reduce inequalities with its Core20PLUS5 framework – a national approach intended to reduce healthcare inequalities for most deprived 20% of the population, covering ‘PLUS’ groups such as ethnic minority communities and covering five clinical areas. 

Bradford Teaching Hospital is using CardMedic to reduce inequalities in line with this framework – a move that chief nurse Karen Dawber called a ‘game changer’ for the trust and its staff. 

In London, one CardMedic customer examined the maternity experiences of over 1,000 women so it could implement strategies to improve experiences for its diverse and often underserved population.  Based on this research, the organisation developed and published a Maternity Equity and Equality strategy that saw CardMedic help the organisation to adapt its practices.  

In Manchester, leading cancer care centre The Christie NHS Foundation Trust is using CardMedic to ensure everyone with additional communication needs receives the best possible, person-centred care, which is helping to reduce health inequalities for often underserved patients. 

Bethany Allen, an incredible digital nurse at the trust said “Since using CardMedic, we have been able to bridge a major gap in service provision and be assured that we are communicating with patients effectively and sensitively, which is essential in cancer care”. 

Nottingham in the UK is also leveraging CardMedic to provider fairer care. Siobhan Buxton, maternity commissioning manager, Nottinghamshire Integrated Care Board, said: “By supporting clinical conversations, CardMedic will help us reduce healthcare inequalities, help existing interpretation teams and improve the patient experience.” 

Leveraging technology to improve health equity is happening across the UK and beyond. In the US, hospitals are also using CardMedic to overcome language barriers, for example in a rural part of New Mexico at Nor Lea District Hospital where up to 50% of the population does not speak English as a first language. 

Instilling confidence in caregivers and patients with more equitable care 

Not only is CardMedic improving healthcare equality and equity; it is enabling fast and efficient communication, which is having a huge impact on people’s experiences of care.  

Research shows that CardMedic has helped reduce anxiety for maternity services users in Leicester. Meanwhile, patient confidence in their care at University Hospitals Sussex increased by almost a third to 95% following use of the app. 

Confident, less anxious patients are empowered to participate in shared decision making and make informed choices about their care. More engaged and activated patients can enjoy higher health-related quality of life and reduced symptom burden1. Not only is this better for the patient, it is also better for healthcare providers and society as a whole.  

Effective, equitable communication in healthcare can change people’s lives for the better. As we’re seeing with CardMedic, technology can play a central role in ensuring this can happen.  

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