For many of us, it’s easier to communicate with a healthcare provider who has a similar background to our own — especially a shared racial identity. And better communication can lead to better care. In fact, studies show that racial concordance increases patient satisfaction and visit attendance.1 Researchers who looked at emergency department use, hospitalizations, and healthcare expenses even found that racial concordance leads to improved healthcare in general.2
That’s why Ovia has launched a simple, powerful, new initiative. All members who identify as Black or African American will receive this message from their Ovia Health Coach/Expert: “Sometimes it feels most comfortable to have healthcare conversations with providers you identify with who can really understand your personal experiences. If you have health questions you’d like to discuss with a Care Team member who identifies as Black or African-American, we’re here and ready to support you! Just send us a message.”
The message is part of Ovia’s larger commitment to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) members’ care and to improving birth equity. As Ovia Health Expert Edwina Zant, a Black-identifying nurse midwife, explains, “This small step offers proactive support to members by acknowledging their unique cultural backgrounds and health concerns, and connecting them with an empathetic and knowledgeable Care Team member with a shared lived experience.”
We talked with Zant about Ovia’s new messages to members, and why proactively offering racially concordant care is a priority.
You helped launch Ovia’s new outreach messages about racially concordant care. Why is this an important step?
Black women and birthing people commonly struggle because their health concerns are ignored, downplayed, or dismissed altogether. In fact, 45% of Black Ovia users told us that they’ve had a healthcare provider who didn’t take their health concerns seriously.
This is part of why Black women may distrust healthcare providers and resist seeking out timely care — which can have potentially devastating results with life-threatening consequences.
So offering racial concordance is one way Ovia can support partnership building and participatory decision-making between individuals and their providers. And this can lead to better care and healthier outcomes.
How are Ovia members responding so far?
Members who identify as Black or African American across all three apps –Ovia, Ovia Pregnancy, and Ovia Parenting –will receive this message from their Ovia Health Coach/Expert.
Before these messages, we were already working to support the unique needs of Black and African-American-identifying members through the Black health equity clinical programs, but many users didn’t know they had the option to request racially concordant care. That’s why we wanted to offer it proactively.
So far, members have been enthusiastically responsive. They’ve welcomed this additional support, which has been wonderful to see.
What change do you hope to see with this new program?
As we know, healthcare is a partnership between an individual and their healthcare provider. A strong partnership educates both the patient and their provider and empowers an individual to advocate for their health needs and concerns. My hope is that Ovia helps build our members’ confidence as experts on their health and living in their own bodies, and that we can help instill an expectation of respectful exchange in every healthcare setting.
Your personal and professional experiences have influenced your thoughts on racially concordant care. Why is this issue important to you?
I was diagnosed with a chronic illness in my teens and have been managing a complicated medication regimen since then. I’ve also been a healthcare provider for 20 years, so I’m very knowledgeable about my health and a vocal self-advocate — but I’m still left scrambling at times to make sure my providers are all communicating and to avoid treatments or medications that would harm my health.
Being a healthcare provider and still struggling to be heard by my own providers motivates me to advocate for our members and work toward a more equitable healthcare system.
Want to know more about Ovia? We offer comprehensive women’s and family health programs that include 1:1 coaching, physician-developed clinical programs, and personalized health and wellness education. Visit www.oviahealth.com to discover more.
1. Journal of General Internal Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9186269/.
2. Journal of Racial and ethnic health disparities: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33403653/.