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Understanding Health Vulnerability: Addressing Unique Challenges and Needs

Dr. Jason
May 24, 2023
Health Vulnerability Blog

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Understanding Health Vulnerability: Addressing Unique Challenges and Needs

By Jason Paruthi, MD

What is Health Vulnerability? 

Health vulnerability is a complex issue that affects a significant portion of the population, where individuals are at increased risk of poor health outcomes due to a confluence of factors. Those can include low socioeconomic status, limited health literacy, poor social support, inadequate health insurance coverage, and others. These factors together result in health disparities, poor outcomes, and increased healthcare costs. 

Another major issue is that vulnerable patients - and their specific needs - are often not proactively identified in order to offer preventive care measures and address the underlying issues. Even full-time employed individuals who appear to have minimal barriers to care may have major healthcare needs that are not being identified or addressed. 

Some unique challenges vulnerable patient populations face include:

Access to Healthcare: 

Limited access to healthcare can be due to various factors related to social determinants of health, financial barriers, lack of transportation, or living in healthcare professional shortage areas (HPSAs). For example, patients in HPSAs face additional challenges1, including a lack of local available medical professionals, longer waiting periods for appointments, reduced access to specialty care, and inadequate healthcare infrastructure. Innovative solutions using telehealth and digital care can help address these issues, if they are cost-effective and scalable.  

Health Literacy:

Limited health literacy2 is a major driver of health vulnerability, including challenges understanding medical information and care plan instructions. This can lead to decreased treatment adherence, challenges navigating health care services, and thus worsened health outcomes. Addressing health literacy issues requires effective health education programs and patient-centered communication that consider each patient’s unique needs and circumstances - which again, must be scalable to be cost-effective.

Behavioral Health: 

Vulnerable patients are also at increased risk of mental health issues3 such as depression and anxiety. Screening for these issues and offering relevant and timely resources can help improve wellbeing in these patients, which may in turn also improve their overall health outcomes. 

How can Lark help?

Lark’s programs offer a cost effective, patient-centric approach to address the unique needs of vulnerable patient populations. These programs combine scalable technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and personalized coaching to educate patients and enhance self-care capabilities. Let's explore some key features that make Lark particularly effective in addressing health vulnerability:

Remote Monitoring and Support:

As mentioned above, one of the significant challenges for vulnerable patients is identifying issues and providing access to healthcare services. Lark’s programs leverage AI and connected devices, enabling patients to track vital health metrics, receive immediate feedback, and navigate to additional resources when needed. Lark also proactively screens for issues including behavioral health and medication adherence, to help identify and address problems before they result in ER visits and hospitalizations. This remote care delivery ensures continuous monitoring and timely intervention, driving improved outcomes and cost savings.4

Health Education and Empowerment:

Lark’s programs bridge this gap by offering comprehensive health education materials and tools. Patients can access evidence-based information, self-assessment tools, and lifestyle recommendations, empowering them to make informed decisions and adopt healthier habits anytime and anywhere.

To Sum It Up: 

There are significant challenges in achieving health equity and improving outcomes for vulnerable populations - which results in poor outcomes and increased healthcare costs. Lark’s digital health programs offer a scalable, cost-effective solution that addresses the unique needs of these patients. Through personalized feedback, remote monitoring, patient engagement, health education, and collaboration with healthcare providers, Lark programs help empower individuals to overcome barriers and actively participate in their healthcare, helping improve outcomes and decrease future care costs.

  1. Auster-Gussman, Lisa A., et al. "Reach of a fully digital diabetes prevention program in health professional shortage areas." Population Health Management 25.4 (2022): 441-448.
  2. Miller, Tricia A. "Health literacy and adherence to medical treatment in chronic and acute illness: a meta-analysis." Patient education and counseling 99.7 (2016): 1079-1086. 
  3. Compton, Michael T., and Ruth S. Shim. "The social determinants of mental health." Focus 13.4 (2015): 419-425.
  4. Branch, OraLee H., et al. "Weight loss and modeled cost savings in a digital diabetes prevention program." Obesity Science & Practice.

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