Leadership Engagement in Advancing Health Equity and Quality Initiatives
12.08.2021 · Vanessa Guzman,CEO,SmartRise Health
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Leadership plays a critical role in guiding a health care organization toward ensuring that the highest level of care is offered to all people, resulting in equitable outcomes across the entire patient population. The fundamental goals of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities and the are based on community and stakeholder collaboration and are defined as follows:
- Goal 1: Awareness. Increase awareness of the significance of health disparities, their impact on the nation, and the actions necessary to improve health outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.
- Goal 3: Health System and Life Experience. Improve health and healthcare outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.
- Goal 4: Cultural and Linguistic Competency. Improve cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the health-related workforce.
- Goal 5: Data, Research, and Evaluation. Improve data availability and coordination, utilization, and diffusion of research and evaluation outcomes.
Let’s look at three ways leadership plays a critical role in mobilizing resources and activities as organizations strive to integrate health equity into quality and community initiatives.
Elimination of Health Care Disparities
A strong commitment to collecting accurate, complete and meaningful patient demographic data is a fundamental step in identifying and eliminating disparities in care. Collecting race, ethnicity and language (REaL) data, as well as expanding the collection of disability status, sexual orientation/gender identity (SO/GI), veteran status, geography and other social determinants of health or social risk factors helps health care organizations understand their patient populations and the needs of those populations.
After an organization has identified the data elements and categories it will collect, the next step should be to develop a standard process and methodology for collecting the data—including who will collect the data, when data will be collected and in what format, and how to distribute the data across the health care system.
Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency
Increasing the diversity of the health care workforce and governance is essential to advancing cultural competency (the ability to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors) and tailoring care delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural and linguistic needs. According to the Institute of Medicine’s “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,” there is a strong correlation between clinicians who reflect the communities they serve and their ability to build the trust necessary to achieve better health behaviors with patients.
Clinicians, provider organizations and hospitals are often seen as anchors in their communities because of their size and the economic stability they bring, and as such, they have a responsibility to partner with community organizations to improve the health and well-being of those communities—the cornerstone of population health—by addressing the root causes of poor health.
Below are recommended steps for organizations to consider on their journey to eliminating disparities in care and promoting health equity while acknowledging their role in eliminating health disparities and promoting diversity, inclusion, cultural competency and community partnerships.
Step 1: Complete the to assess your organization’s current activities with regard to the categories below, which were identified as critical components of an organization’s ability to identify and address disparities:
- Data collection.
- Data collection training.
- Data validation.
- Data stratification.
- Communication of findings.
- Addressing and resolving gaps in care.
- Organizational infrastructure and culture.
Step 2: Evaluate. Analyze HEOA results with a cross-functional, multidisciplinary team to determine the current level of implementation.
Step 3: Prioritize. Rank the necessary action items to close gaps and develop specific goals, objectives and a tactical plan of implementation for each item.
Step 4: Act. Act on identified areas of opportunity and commit to reaching an advanced level of implementation.
What do you think? Join the discussion here
1. How is your organization building capacity to develop structures and processes to support health equity?
2. How is your organization leveraging data to raise awareness, communicate opportunities and engage staff to ensure they understand the why’s, what’s and how’s?
3. What clinical or operational challenges has your organization encountered when prioritizing system-level changes?
4. What strategies has your organization used to help’s leadership promote models for advancing health equity?
Vanessa Guzman,CEO,SmartRise Health
Vanessa Guzman is an expert in population health strategies, including patient and physician engagement strategies, clinical reporting, health IT and quality management models, and CEO at SmartRise Health. With almost 15 years of industry experience, she works closely with health systems, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), technology, and SDOH partners to collaborate in implementing data-driven tools, clinical infrastructures, and community partnerships to promote wellness and improve patient health outcomes.
Vanessa served as the Associate Vice President at the Montefiore Health System, a top-performing ACO in the country, overseeing physician partnerships, population health and quality improvement, and health information technology.