Improving Care for Everyone

Talking with patients in ways they understand and respecting their values is essential for quality health care. NCQA’s Multicultural Health Care Distinction program helps health plans and providers care for people of different races and with different languages and cultures.

As our diversity continues to grow, so does the need to speak with patients with different languages and cultures. Talking in ways patients understand and respect is vital for diagnosis problems and helping people manage disease and get better.

Studies have found gaps in quality – called “disparities” -- between groups of people, even when they have good insurance.

NCQA’s Multicultural Health Care (MHC) Distinction Program helps plans and health care providers develop programs and strategies to meet the needs of everyone – regardless of their race or ethnicity.

MHC standards and guidelines track standards set by the federal Office of Minority Health standards.

MHC evaluates whether plans or providers:

  • Make sure providers know about patients’ ethnicity and preferred language.
  • Tell patients about language services and train staff how to use them.
  • Provide timely, high-quality translations and tell patients about translators or providers who are fluent in other languages.
  • Tell patients about provider race and ethnicity if they ask for it.
  • Look for and address any gaps in their ability to serve members’ language needs.
  • Have measurable goals for reducing disparities and evaluate progress each year.
  • Compare quality ratings for different ethnic and language groups, take concrete steps to address differences and continually evaluate whether the strategies work.

Health Partners of Philadelphia was the first plan to earn MHC Distinction. They found that the program helps them to “drill down by race, ethnicity, language—even zip code on disparities we want to improve, “ says Mary K. Stom, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Healthcare Management. “ By looking at data in ways we didn’t before, we see what we were doing well and can apply that to new activities.”

Learn more about NCQA's Multicultural Health Care Distinction Program.