Inaccessible, fragmented, and siloed care is a chronic challenge facing patients and healthcare providers, resulting in low-value and inequitable outcomes that are more likely to affect underserved populations.1 For racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., health disparities take on many forms — including higher rates of chronic disease and premature death, compared to the rates among Whites. It is important to note that patterns are not universal or stagnant. Some minority groups — most notably, Latinx/Hispanic — may have better health outcomes than Whites in certain measures.2 Mortality rates for Native Americans are almost 50% higher than those of their White counterparts.3 Additionally, Native Americans have an infant mortality rate that is 1.5 times the rate of Whites.4 The CDC reports that nearly 44% of Black men and 48% of Black women have some form of cardiovascular disease. 5 And Black and American Indian/Alaska Native females have higher rates of stroke-related death than Latinx/Hispanic and White women.6
Medical imaging impacts most patients at some point in their care journey, and radiologists have the potential to be unifying change agents across an inequitable healthcare system. Overcoming racial, socioeconomic, and geographical barriers supports high-quality imaging care and vibrant practices.
How can we, as radiologists, help patients overcome the barriers to care? We can take a human-centered approach and ask questions to ensure that we’re providing high-quality care. We can ask patients how they were treated before, during, and after their appointments. We can ask about their follow-up care and understand any obstacles they are running into. The pages of this special issue illuminate the many ways radiologists are taking action to ensure quality care for all members of their communities.
We will examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and exacerbated structural barriers. We will identify the ways in which financial toxicity creates barriers to receiving timely care. We will explore how technology can be leveraged as a tool to promote health equity by improving communication between providers and patients from underserved communities. And we will discover how, by working together, we will address the systemic challenges in imaging care and make tangible improvements in the lives of all of our patients.