Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been gaining a lot of traction both socially and politically. Many industries are now focusing on DE+I initiatives to keep up with these trends. The consumer healthcare industry is no exception.
Recently, consumer healthcare companies have made small steps towards improving their DE+I culture. For example, Band-Aid aimed to increase racial diversity in their product by launching bandages that ranged in skin tone. However, this is just the first step. To continue the effort and make meaningful change, consumer healthcare companies will need to think deeper.
DE+I Concerns in Consumer Healthcare
There are many disparities that exist in the consumer healthcare space. These disparities range across many different areas; below we list a few:
Workforce: Within the consumer healthcare industry, all minority populations combined make up less than 40% of the workforce. Additionally, 64% of minority and 47% of white respondents stated that they do not believe their own management teams reflect the diversity of the patients they serve. The number of minority workers are likely to continue declining, especially as consumer healthcare companies are hyper focusing on automation. According to The Brookings Institution, Black and Latino workers are employed at jobs that are at high risk of being automated. The lack of representation in the workforce is harmful down the line as there are less people considering and advocating for the needs of minority groups, which impacts research and development.
Research: Medical and market research done by consumer healthcare companies are needed to understand potential customers. However, within this research, there is not equitable representation. According to the Coalition to Eliminate Disparities and to Research Inclusion in Clinical Trials, African Americans represent 12% of the U.S. population and Hispanics represent 16% of the population, but they only represent 5% and 1% of clinical trial populations, respectively. People respond to medicine differently depending on age, sex, race, disability, neurodiversity, and other factors. Therefore, research must be representative of entire populations so scientists can understand the potential effects of the medicine or product for all types of patients.
Treatment: Diverse groups of people may experience different symptoms or conditions when they have the same illness or disease. As a result of non-representative sample groups in research, minorities may rely on diagnoses and recommendations made for predominantly white patients. For example, they may benefit from taking a higher or lower dose than the recommended amount. Overall, this means that minorities may have less treatment options or worse – invalid treatment options.
How Technological Advancements Can Help
While the DE+I concerns listed above may seem daunting to tackle, the consumer healthcare industry may be able to rely on technological innovation to help.
Talent Acquisition: DE+I technology providers are extremely focused on helping human resource departments with talent acquisition. In fact, according to RedThread research, 43% of the DE+I technology providers were focusing on talent and acquisition. These technologies help employers access a more diverse pool of candidates not only in terms of background, but also talent. They also reduce bias in the decision-making process by matching candidates to job descriptions and developing blind resumes, profiles, and assessments.
Analytics: During the quarantine period of the pandemic, people got more comfortable sharing personal information online. This is especially true in healthcare as people searched for ways to address their health needs outside of hospitals and doctor’s offices. Additionally, many consumer healthcare companies are releasing wearables and medical devices, which collect real time data about their users. Consumer healthcare companies can take advantage of this new pool of data to perform analytics. Using the data supplied by wide range of consumers themselves can help companies use analytics in new product development. The end goal is to create new products that better address the needs of a larger, more representative group of people.
Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence is a tool that is being applied to many different industries. In the consumer healthcare industry, companies may be able to use this tool to provide more personalized care. AI may be able to use a customer’s personal profile to help identify specific treatment options that may work best for their personal history. For example, AI can be used to create a tool that can help people determine the right dosage of OTC medicine based on information that aligns with their personal profile (race, age, gender, medical history, etc.).
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Coauthor and contributions by Maggie Wong