The last time you went to see a doctor, were you able to see a provider who shares your same background? Were they able to understand your lived experiences and provide care that took your identity and culture into account?
This concept—where people receive care from providers who share their same cultural background and lived experience—is called care matching. While many people can easily find this level of empathetic support, it’s significantly more difficult for certain groups to access the same level of care. Latinx and Black doctors account for just 11% of all physicians in the US, and only of providers 3% identify as LGBTQIA+. This means that people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community often need to actively seek out a provider who shares their background. Their options can be further limited by where they live and which providers their insurance covers.
Why is care matching important?
The need to support care matching stems from severe disparities in health outcomes for historically marginalized groups. American Indian & Alaska Native (AIAN) and Black birthing parents are, respectively, two and three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white parents. Black and AIAN birthing parents also have higher shares of preterm births, low birthweight births, or births for which they received late or no prenatal care compared to white parents.
Discrimination and disparities extend beyond race to sexual orientation and gender identity. Research shows that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to report preterm births, low birthweight babies, and pregnancies ending in stillbirth.
While many systemic issues cause these devastating health disparities, providers’ implicit bias contributes to the negative outcomes. For example, healthcare providers on the whole spend less time with Black patients and are more likely to rely on stereotypes like the belief that Black patients won’t adhere to prescribed treatment plans. Another study found that more than half of the primary care providers explicitly expressed discomfort with caring for sexual minority patients.
Combating internalized beliefs is never simple, but care matching has been shown to alleviate some of the implicit bias and improve outcomes for historically marginalized communities. A Stanford University study pairing Black patients and doctors identified several benefits to care matching, including:
- More engaged patient-doctor conversations
- Improved prescription adherence
- More detailed note taking by practitioners
- Greater willingness to undergo preventative treatment
- Better patient understanding of health risks and complications
Improving access to diverse providers with digital family health solutions
Care matching is often limited by the availability of providers in a person’s local community. If there are no specialists near someone who share their same background, they’re often left to take an appointment with any available provider.
To combat this limited availability, many employers and health plans are turning to digital family health solutions like Maven for support. These solutions remove the boundaries of geography, widening the provider pool and connecting members to the right person based on their unique needs, regardless of where they live.
Maven, the leading digital family health solution for people starting and raising families, offers a diverse range of providers to members:
- 32% of providers identify as Latine, Black/African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, or multi-racial
- 35% of Maven’s mental health specialists identify as Black. In comparison, Black specialists account for just 4% of the mental health workforce in the U.S.
- 6% of providers identify as LGBTQIA+
- Providers speak 35+ different languages, including Spanish, French, Hindi, and Hebrew.
JeDon, a Maven member who relied on Maven to support her through her pregnancy, summarizes the effect that care matching has on her journey: “I just felt a little more comfortable speaking with someone who was African American, because sometimes I feel like I’m trying to be an advocate for myself and it’s just still not working.”
Supporting care matching with Maven
At Maven, we understand that every person's background and lived experiences are unique and can greatly impact their reproductive health journey. That's why we prioritize an empathetic approach to care, integrating culturally-humble care and care matching at every level. If you're ready to better support the diverse needs of your employees as they start and raise their families, we're here to help. Contact us today to learn more.
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