HR VP Camille Chang Gilmore explains why the medtech giant is using data to shine light on healthcare inequality.One of Camille Chang Gilmore’s proudest moments at Boston Scientific came earlier this year. Two days after the killing of George Floyd, CEO Michael Mahoney and the executive team issued a letter that not only condemned racism but also committed $2.5 million toward combatting it.
Boston Scientific has been putting funds and action into fighting inequality for more than 10 years. In a recent interview, Chang Gilmore, VP of human resources and global chief diversity officer, discussed the company’s renewed push for Close the Gap, a campaign to highlight the fact that people of color in many communities don’t receive the health care they need.
Close the Gap is targeting several U.S. cities with billboards and other public service announcements to raise awareness of the healthcare deficit. The broader public messages go hand-in-hand with Boston Scientific’s plans to supply hospitals and physicians with the data necessary to ensure patients get the treatment they need.
Close the Gap currently targets cardiovascular and peripheral vascular diseases but Boston Scientific has plans to move into colorectal cancer and neuromodulation.
In this edited interview from the DeviceTalks Weekly Podcast, Chang Gilmore shares the rationale behind the campaign.
DTW: What is the purpose of Close the Gap?
Chang Gilmore: Close the Gap is not a feel-good initiative. It really is a testament to the mission that underlies everything that we do as a company at Boston Scientific. We are here to improve the healthcare outcomes for all patients around the world.
DTW: How does it work?
Chang Gilmore: The first thing is education. We provide education to providers not only about the prevalence of the disease states that reside in their communities, but we can also educate patients about what therapies are available to treat their diseases, like heart failure, atrial fibrillation or even stroke. We have a repository of data where we can look at an area by ZIP code and get really specific. We can tell hospital systems and providers and educate them on the diseases that exist locally within their communities.
DTW: What happens after the information is delivered?
Chang Gilmore: Then it’s really about partnerships that can reach Blacks, Hispanics and women in the community. We work with local hospitals to really build back that trust in the community because, and here’s the real deal with COVID-19, I can tell you there’s been an erosion of trust. I think many healthcare providers and hospital systems recognize that Close the Gap can be part of their post-COVID-19 strategy to really get back into those communities and build that trust to stay.
DTW: Where are the origins of the mistrust?
Chang Gilmore: Well, if you look at 400 years of racism and sin in our nation coupled with examples like the Tuskegee trials where they injected syphilis into black men and then didn’t provide treatment — those are the areas where distrust came about.
DTW: What are ways to build back that trust?
Chang Gilmore: I’m proud that in 2015, Boston Scientific ran the Platinum Diversity Trial. Believe it or not, there was this fallacy that stents reacted different in people of color. We said we have to prove this wrong. We were hit with headwinds like people telling us Blacks won’t be compliant or Hispanics won’t show up if they participate in the clinical trial. Well, not only did we prove that to be just false, we proved that they would be even more compliant. We enrolled more than 1,500 patients in 65 sites. It was one of the best trials that we have seen in terms of having diverse patients. It really raised the question: Why don’t we have more Blacks, Hispanics and women in clinical trials? That’s going to be another focus area for Boston Scientific as we go forward. We’re going to be innovative to ensure that we have those constituency groups participating in our trials.
DTW: What do those numbers look like now?
Chang Gilmore: The facts are this. Hispanics represent 18% of the population but are in less than 1% of clinical trials. It’s a fact that Blacks represent 12% of the population and have the highest rate of heart disease but are in less than 5% of clinical trials and a fact that women wait 30% longer to seek medical care than their male counterparts. This is what we’re trying to address. Is it the only answer? Probably not. But it’s definitely a start.
DTW: How long is this process?
Chang Gilmore: We’re not going to tackle it tomorrow. It’s going to take some time, but we put our money where our mouth is. I mentioned to someone the other day, I said, the one thing I love about Boston Scientific is we listen, we learn and then we act. That’s just what we do.