Jan 23, 2024 - News

Arizona tech company partners with Mayo Clinic to fight health disparities

Illustration of a red cross animating into a not equal sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

One of the Valley's telemedicine pioneers is attempting to disrupt the health care system once again — this time with software that alerts physicians to clinical biases that are costing lives and money.

Driving the news: Mayo Clinic will begin using TruLite Health's clinical, social and behavioral software platform in an attempt to improve outcomes, the Tempe-based tech company announced earlier this month.

Why it matters: Health care disparities — driven by a lack of diversity in clinical trials and inherent provider biases — lead to worse care and outcomes for diverse populations, medical research shows.

  • A Deloitte Insights report from 2022 found health inequities account for about $320 billion in annual health care spending and could balloon to $1 trillion by 2040 if not addressed.

How it works: The new software — dubbed Truity — runs patient demographic and medical data against peer-reviewed health equity research, flags providers to potential biases and provides suggestions to overcome them, TruLite founder and CEO Alan Roga tells Axios Phoenix.

  • The software is embedded within a hospital system's existing workflow and is visible to the entire care team — doctors, nurses, social workers, etc.
  • The information is also available to patients, who can also receive virtual health equity coaching through TruLite to learn how to better advocate for themselves. TruLite partnered with Morehouse School of Medicine, a historically Black college in Atlanta, to offer the nation's first health equity coaching certification last year.

For example: If a Black patient sought care related to asthma, the software would alert the provider that skin pigmentation and melanin can affect a pulse oximeter's accuracy and would recommend secondary testing.

Flashback: Roga, who left the managing team of Teladoc to start TruLite, tells Axios Phoenix he began researching health care disparities after George Floyd's murder highlighted how systemic biases have infiltrated U.S. society.

  • "What I learned is that health care is not even close to equitable in the United States. If you are not white, male, educated, live in an urban ZIP code, straight … your outcomes are worse," he said.

The big picture: There's an extensive — and growing — body of medical research on health disparities, but it can be difficult for providers to sort through in the thick of providing care, says Roga, who practiced medicine for 20 years.

  • He says Truity is designed to help physicians intuitively recognize and address patient-specific equity risks.

What we're watching: The federal government and medical regulators are pushing hospitals to more aggressively address health equity.

The bottom line: "There is a lot of aspirational desire to address health equity. … What we need to do is go faster. There's too much talk in this space and not enough action," Roga says.

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