5 Questions About the Future of Health Equity


Diagnostic testing is universal for a patient's journey. Learn the critical role it plays in the healthcare continuum and a path forward.

July 25, 2022

In the United States, a history of disparities exists within healthcare and access to care that typically affects underserved or underrepresented communities. As healthcare continues to evolve in the U.S., the role of medical labs can help close the gap in health equity. Samira Saad, Pharm.D., M.S., medical access partner for Roche Diagnostics, describes the critical role of diversity and inclusion in clinical trial studies, their role in health equity, and a path forward.


How can we as a society achieve more significant equity in healthcare?


We must recognize that we as a whole are greater than the sum of our parts. If we learned anything from the pandemic, it's that when one of us suffers, we all suffer. 


As a clinician, I observed endless opportunities for education, engagement and partnerships to play critical roles in driving health equity. Currently, the most significant limiting factor is the lack of underrepresented patient populations participating in clinical trials. Patient inclusion in this process is vital to the sustainability of a more equitable healthcare delivery system.


In the U.S., the life expectancy gap between the richest and the poorest is at an all-time high. The wealthiest male lives 15 years longer than the poorest, and the richest female lives 10 years longer than the most impoverished. How can diagnostic testing better address this disparity?


Diagnostic testing is the universal thread that is interwoven into every part of the patient's journey. No matter what disease a patient faces, they will likely receive multiple diagnostic solutions: 


  1. For screening

  2. To determine their risk

  3. To confirm a diagnosis

  4. To address their potential treatments

  5.  To monitor a treatment effectiveness


Socioeconomics plays a critical role in gaining access to some of the more innovative solutions. This is why engaging in clinical trials (regardless of your background or circumstance) is so critical. We can improve our understanding of the barriers patients face from diverse backgrounds by including them in research studies. This will help us identify possible solutions to these challenges. This could prevent access to diagnostic solutions.  


Clinical studies are essential for the future of healthcare. When conducting these studies, are people of all races, gender identities, ethnicities and other characteristics being considered? 


The short answer is not always. There are several factors that contribute to the enrollment patterns of participants in clinical trials. However, it's essential to consider the main affected patient communities that exist related to a specific disease state of interest. 


When conducting a clinical trial, we need to make the population representative of the way patients appear in real-world practice. After that, we need to know if the results apply to the broader population. 


What opportunities exist for laboratorians to activate an approach at their labs to ensure they capture more diverse populations within clinical trials?


There are ample opportunities to cultivate a more diverse approach to patient selection and enrollment within clinical trials. It starts with prioritizing the need for broader populations within clinical trials at the home institution. 


Then, partner with organizations that are invested in doing the same. This will help organizations reach their goals faster, and ultimately help patients get earlier access to innovative solutions that can improve their health. 


What excites you about the future of health equity in diagnostic testing or clinical trials?


Healthcare delivery is moving closer to the patient, with solutions that focus on the patient's individual needs. However, it only can occur when all patients are represented in clinical trials. Then we can gather better insights on how diagnostic solutions can work to improve their outcomes. The sky is the limit when it comes to driving broader, equitable access to diagnostic solutions. We cannot have innovation without ensuring access. 

Disclaimer: This content is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. Always seek the advice of your doctor or another qualified health provider regarding a medical condition.




Samira Saad, Pharm.D., M.S., serves as medical access partner for Roche Diagnostics North America. She has 10 years of clinical expertise in cardiovascular medicine, hematology/oncology and pharmacotherapy. Before joining Roche, Saad served as a clinical pharmacist specialist across multiple University of Michigan Health System sites and as adjunct clinical faculty at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy.