Equity, equality, and why understanding the difference is important in healthcare 

The terms health equity and health equality are often used interchangeably. However, their meanings and underlying principles are far more nuanced. To achieve optimal health outcomes for all, it’s important that we understand the difference. 

Defining health equity and health equality 

Health equity refers to the fair and just distribution of healthcare resources, opportunities, and outcomes, recognising that different groups require varying levels of support to overcome health disparities.  

Health equality focuses on providing equal access to healthcare resources and services. While health equity considers that people have diverse needs and aims to attain optimal health outcomes regardless of background or circumstances, health equality does little to address the root causes of such disparities.  

Crucially, health equality overlooks the fact that some individuals may start from different levels of disadvantage or face systemic barriers that hinder their ability to achieve optimal health outcomes. 

How CardMedic is addressing health equity  

At CardMedic, distinguishing between health equity and health equality helps us deliver on our promise to make healthcare more inclusive by bridging the gap between clinicians and patients with additional communication needs.  

By prioritising the improvement of health equity, we acknowledge that there are underserved populations and marginalised groups, such as non-English speaking patients and patients with visual, auditory, or cognitive impairments, who require additional support to access healthcare resources and services.  

By recognising that equal treatment may not lead to equal health outcomes, we’re able to tailor CardMedic as a digital communication solution to meet the unique needs of the diverse communities that our customers serve.  

How the NHS is using CardMedic to address health inequity and inequality 

One of our customers in London is setting an incredible example for NHS organisations of how to improve health equity and equality.

The organisation conducted research into the maternity experiences of over 1,000 women living in London so it could implement strategies to improve experiences for its diverse and often underserved population.  

Based on the research, the organisation developed and published its Maternity Equity and Equality strategy. CardMedic was baked into the document to support the organisation to adapt its practices so that its populations are best served. Often, pregnant people don’t feel listened to when they’re being cared for, and poor outcomes could have been prevented if information was more accessible, communication was stronger, and there was greater cultural awareness. These gaps are the exact ones that CardMedic intends to bridge. 

How expectant and new mothers and families are benefitting from the use of CardMedic in London 

Around 50% of the population will experience a communication barrier at some point in their lives. This is often caused by a language barrier. In London, over 200 languages are spoken, making this an even more likely reality.

Language barriers fuel health inequalities by preventing individuals from seeking appropriate medical care, which can result in delayed diagnoses, inadequate treatment, and poorer health outcomes. So, the need for an app such as CardMedic to help medical staff and service users communicate more effectively couldn’t be greater.  

CardMedic has provided organisations in London with the tools to improve interpreting services that provide accurate, timely, and user-friendly interpretations for a number of community languages. By providing a library of instantly available, pre-written clinical scripts, CardMedic has been an incredibly helpful and simple way of assisting healthcare professionals in delivering more personalised care to patients experiencing language barriers, both in acute and pre-planned settings.  

To address health equality, you need to address health equity 

Understanding the difference between health equity and health equality is crucial for achieving optimal health outcomes. When considering how to improve communication to reduce health inequalities, it’s important to standardise resources such as leaflets and other health information, as well as our approaches to care, to make sure everyone is receiving the same standard. From an equity point of view, we know that there are certain patient cohorts who experience poorer outcomes, so it’s essential that we have the tools, the staff, and the training to change this. CardMedic helps to level the playing field and successfully challenge existing health inequalities.

Donna Ockenden’s original Maternity Review revealed just how deep-rooted the problems with maternity services are in the NHS and created an impetus for change. We couldn’t be prouder of our customers who are doing incredible work to reduce disparities and setting an example to other organisations about what’s possible. Standardising resources and approaches to care is vital for equality, but it’s equally important to address the specific needs of disadvantaged groups to achieve equity.  

CardMedic’s contribution to levelling the playing field by facilitating effective communication exemplifies how technology can contribute to making healthcare more equitable. Sadly, communication is a basic human right that’s not afforded to everybody equally, and inequity is a major contributor.

When deploying technology, it’s vitally important to consider how it can improve both equity and equality. Only when healthcare becomes truly equitable can we begin to tackle the underlying inequalities that persist in our society, helping to improve health outcomes for all.  


Like this article?

Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn