6 ways to improve healthcare for the disadvantaged

Disparities in healthcare access and quality are an ongoing concern as hospitals transition away from the fee-for-service model and toward patient-centered and value-based care, but providers can take several steps to reduce these discrepancies among high-risk populations, according to a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. 

The report outlines best practices targeting patients "who are in a low socio-economic position, reside in disadvantaged neighborhoods, identify as a racial or ethnic minority, or possess limited health literacy." These groups typically receive less effective care and pay more for it, according to one recent report. 

The National Academies recommended six practices for healthcare organizations and workers to make healthcare more equitable:

  • Value and promote health equity and hold yourself accountable
  • Understand your population's health, risk factors, and patterns of care
  • Identify, anticipate, and respond to clinical and social needs
  • Collaborate within and across provider teams and service sectors to deliver care
  • Plan care and transitions in care to prepare for patients' changing clinical and social needs
  • Engage patients in their care by designing individualized care to promote the health of individuals in the community setting

For these practices to be effective, said the committee, it is essential that organizations have access to resources and align financial incentives. No amount of good intentions can disrupt a deeply entrenched system of inequality. Providers must find it profitable to align care with values of equity.

Fortunately, studies show that health equity is ultimately good for institutions' bottom line. Better care results in fewer readmissions and better outcomes, which, increasingly, can affect the amount of money hospitals receive in government funding and Medicare reimbursements. 

To learn more:
- download the report