In March, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services unveiled a new tool aimed at tracking racial health disparities among Medicare patients, but the tool is only part of the agency's broader push to address care disparities among different racial groups, genders and socioeconomic classes, a CMS official told Hospitals & Health Networks.
In addition to the mapping tool, CMS is also expanding tools for reducing these disparities and improving diversity, according to H&HN. For example, CMS' Office of Minority Health recently expanded its From Coverage to Care program, which aims to improve patients' health literacy and care access, according to Office of Minority Health Director Cara James. Moreover, another new tool allows providers to target readmissions disparities specifically, offering tips on identifying problems and developing plans for reducing such imbalances, James said.
These interventions come not a moment too soon, as the new mapping tool has discovered significant racial disparities in Rhode Island alone, according to Rhode Island Public Radio. The tool determined 32 percent of Rhode Island's black Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes, compared to 24 percent of white beneficiaries, with similar disparities in emergency room use and hospitalization rates.
Recent research determined that one method of reducing racial disparities may be a concerted effort to diversify hospital workforces. The study, published this March, found that black patients were 20 percent less likely to die or experience complications in diverse hospitals compared to largely white providers, FierceHealthcare previously reported.