New app aims to address racism in healthcare

A new app that reviews healthcare providers aims to make healthcare safer and more accessible for those targeted by discrimination.

The Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour is seeking funding to develop the app, similar to Yelp. They want to collect information around experiences with medical practitioners, and help people find culturally-sensitive providers.  

Just like you review a restaurant, just like you review a hotel … you can go on and you can review your clinic, you can review your doctor’s office, you can review your specialist’s office, says Dominique Jacobs, the organization’s communications and resource development coordinator.

Once developed, the app will help newcomers navigate the healthcare system. It will also provide much-needed support for Indigenous women and women of colour in the region, Jacobs says.

Reviews of providers will be publicly available, but reviewers can choose to remain anonymous. The app would also include lists of culturally-sensitive specialists and doctors accepting new patients.

Race-based data

Jacobs hopes the app can go beyond reviews, and provide race-based data that leads to improvements in the healthcare system.

“[With] this data, we are then able to take steps to better support the community,” Jacobs says. “The whole plan with the app is to have better health outcomes for racialized communities and visible minorities.”

In September, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender called on the province to pass new legislation to address systemic discrimination in Canada. In a news release, Govender said collecting and analyzing data to “identify inequalities and advance human rights” will be “critical.”

To ensure accountability from health care providers there needs to be data, Jacobs adds. Widespread calls for race-based data are what initially inspired the app.

“The fact is that we don’t collect data and that’s the whole reason why there’s no evidence and there’s no recordings on issues that racialized communities face,” Jacobs says.

“Once we have data collected and we can see trends and patterns and (which) certain institutions (are) being more –– I’m just going to say, more racist than others.”  

The app development comes amid an ongoing investigation into Indigenous-specific discrimination in B.C.’s health system. The investigation is set to conclude by the end of December 2020.

No place for racism in healthcare’

Jacobs also hopes the app can be used to help people file complaints about healthcare workers who are discriminatory.

“If something is pinging on that app consistently, then we know…this is a problem area, we need to find some solutions. We need to get some training in there. We need to get some accountability measures in there.”

Ultimately, Jacobs says healthcare practitioners who discriminate against patients need to be facing penalties.

“The bottom line is, there’s no place for racism and healthcare. People need to be losing their license to practice if they continue racist acts against minorities and racialized people,” says Jacobs. 

“We can’t be fighting racism and fighting for our lives at the same time. We’re going to lose.”

Though the app will begin as a resource for communities around the City of Victoria, Jacobs wants to eventually expand it across the country.

“We want to protect racialized communities across Canada,” she says.

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