3 ways hospitals can address healthcare disparities among diverse patient populations

As hospitals around the country try to resolve healthcare disparities, especially among minority populations, Massachusetts General Hospital implemented a series of initiatives to educate providers and staff about communicating with and caring for diverse patient populations, according to an article in Hospitals & Health Networks.

Joseph Betancourt, M.D., director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General in Boston, gave a few simple steps hospitals can follow to ensure more comprehensive care for all:

  1. Create a strategic plan. Betancourt said hospitals need to put resources into the plan and hold specific departments accountable for performance. Follow recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and focus on collecting key demographics, and measuring quality performance. "Identify gaps [in quality] and develop interventions to meet them. Our interventions are not particularly novel, just basic common sense. We have particularly focused on healthcare coaches and navigators, which are not high-cost investments," he said.

  2. Train staff in cross-culture care. Promote a continuous learning atmosphere that focuses on cross-cultural care and communication, Betancourt told H&HN. For example, the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization provided cultural competence training for doctors through its Quality Incentive program, which fostered better understanding of disparities and skills needed to provide care. Hospitals must stay up to date on the latest research findings related to racial and ethnic disparities.

  3. Monitor and measure performance. Massachusetts General now puts out an Annual Report on Equity in Healthcare Quality, gauging metrics according to race, ethnicity, language and education, which is publicly accessible through the hospital website. Based on the report, the hospital creates programs to eliminate disparities such as diabetes management and cancer screenings, according to the article.

The efforts paid off for Massachusetts General, which received the inaugural Equity of Care Award from the American Hospital Association at the Health Forum in July, the article states.

Researchers recently determined racial disparity is due in large part to unequal access to high-quality hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported. To help address healthcare disparities, hospital leaders must strengthen their workforce with a human resources program that focuses on cultural competency and eliminates healthcare disparities.

To learn more:
- check out Massachusetts General's annual report
- here's the article

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