June 15, 2022
On a sweltering June 15th afternoon, the Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) team were joined by health transformers from across the digital health ecosystem at Raleigh Founded, a networking hub fostering an inclusive community of entrepreneurs, to snack, drink craft beer, and engage in stimulating conversations surrounding the burgeoning health inequities that plague the NC health system and the United States at large. The evening was sponsored by Duke University’s Master of Management in Clinical Informatics (MMCi) program and discussions were driven by Senator Sydney Batch, a triple tarheel and Wake County representative who has worked as a family law attorney, child welfare advocate, and social worker for over a decade, and Senator Paul Lowe, a revered 20+ year clergyman representing Forsyth County who has served as the chairman of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus (NCLBC), adjunct professor at Shaw University Divinity School, and as a leader of the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina.
“Is healthcare a right or is it a service that needs to be paid for?” – Senator Paul Lowe
“Is healthcare a right or is it a service that needs to be paid for?” pondered Senator Lowe. Such a simple yet complex question framed the context for the ensuing conversation. “I see it as a right,” he went on to affirm. “We have to see that people are helped and that they are able to see a doctor when they need to, period.” Senator Batch added to the conversation by stating that “your zip code should not dictate your health outcomes,” referencing a recent study that shows individuals who live in Democratic counties in North Carolina have better health outcomes and higher life expectancies than Republican counties. The policies and amenities promoted in Democratic counties and the quality of life that accompanies those, such as parks, walkways, and readily available doctors are proposed as critical drivers of health. Senator Batch remarked that hospitals in rural North Carolina are closing rapidly and that “is not fair to the people in rural North Carolina because they choose to live there – people should not have to leave where they have grown up and love just to receive adequate healthcare.” Senator Batch, a breast cancer survivor, remarked that during her time receiving radiation therapy, she received treatment with other women all across the state “who had to stay in hotels and quit their jobs because they could not get treatment in their backyard – it is not fair that this is happening in North Carolina; as a North Carolinian, wherever you live, you should get the best quality care.”
“Your zip code should not dictate your health outcomes.” – Senator Sydney Batch
Continuing the discussion, DHIT’s Chief Operating Officer, Cindy Hallberlin, stunned the crowd with an alarming statistic. North Carolina, a preeminent hub for global life sciences companies and world-class health systems in the US, ranks 47th based on cost, access and outcomes according to one study. And the United States as a whole, who spends five times the amount on healthcare than other first world, developed countries, ranks bottom in reported health outcomes.
Such shocking statistics framed the ensuing conversation. Senator Batch remarked that with continued Medicaid expansion, you can now track and demonstrate that health interventions are working and that they dramatically improve health outcomes. And she commented, for example, that an area with high rates of obesity should focus on developing parks and walkways – finding real-world solutions that can be measured and tracked for efficacy. Senator Batch stated, “don’t stop at the policy; find a narrative and a story that is compelling and weave the policy around that because that is what is going to move individuals to take action.”
North Carolina, a preeminent hub for global life sciences companies and world-class health systems in the US, ranks 47th based on cost, access and outcomes according to one study.
Senator Lowe joined in and remarked that the state needs to rely on entities like DHIT and the entire health ecosystem to ensure “we can meet people where they are and begin to share what is in their best interests to begin to improve health outcomes – because we cannot continue to rely on only five out of 100 counties in the state providing adequate healthcare causing people to have to travel and uproot their lives to get access to quality healthcare. We have to look at it as it is rather than what we want it to be to make lasting change.”
In the words of DHIT President Michael Levy, “Our goal is to make North Carolina the healthiest place to live, work and raise a family. Clearly, there is much work to be done. And Digital Health holds the key to improving access, driving down cost, and improving the healthcare experience for all of us.”
Join us at our next Happy Hour event on July 20th at American Underground in Durham where we will convene the region’s digital health movers and shakers for more networking and engaging conversation and collaboration.
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Ciao for now!