Given recent events, health systems spoke out against racism and released unprecedented statements of solidary with the African-American community.
“Statements are great but if they’re not backed up with actual action, then they’re meaningless,” says Eugenia C. South, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and faculty director of the Penn Urban Health Lab.
South says there is a “segregated way of providing care, across all health systems,” borne from the insurance-driven nature of the health care industry. In primary care, resident clinics often serve people with Medicaid or those who are uninsured or under-insured, while faculty clinics serve individuals who can afford private insurance.
“Insurance status is patterned by race so it’s almost like within our own institutions we’re separating patients by race with this arbitrary thing that we all sort of grew up in medicine not questioning,” South says. “Residents provide excellent care, but there is a lack of continuity. There are problems with that model.”
To confront the coronavirus pandemic, health systems transformed and revised their operations, shifted to remote work, utilized telehealth, reimagined researched protocols and productivity, and crowdsourced personal protection equipment. Health systems should utilize that same energy and efforts to combat the centuries-long pandemic of systematic racism.