How Ascension achieves health equity and puts its words into action

Guest post by Patricia Maryland, president of healthcare operations and chief operating officer of Ascension Health, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world's largest Catholic health system.

Ascension's mission--which remains at the core of everything we do--brings our concern for achieving health equity to the forefront.  Our mission states that Ascension is an advocate for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words.

Ascension had the foresight to realize that simply building a high-quality healthcare system would not be sufficient. Effective population health management demands so much more. Therefore, we made the bold determination that if we want a compassionate and just society with equal care for all, we have to begin with equitable care for all.

Through my involvement with Healthy Neighborhoods Detroit and other community outreach programs, I have learned that the real way to reach people--to truly connect with those who are struggling--is to meet them where they are on a social, emotional, mental and physical level. At Ascension, we touch those whom others disregard, we meet the marginalized and we are present in the pain of poverty. After all, that's what we're called to do.

As the largest nonprofit healthcare organization in the country, we seek to achieve this goal by taking advantage of our scale and scope, leveraging all we know about health and healthcare. Focusing on quality, we ensure the right care at the right time in the right setting and with the right provider; and knowing that we can only manage what we measure, we use real-time data to drive performance improvement.

For the past 10 years, Ascension has become a national leader in healthcare quality and safety. By addressing the issue of delivering equitable care (to include eliminating healthcare disparities, elevating patient and family engagement, and delivering personalized care to all) we constantly strive to provide the best care possible with blindness to the ethnicity, gender, geographic location or socioeconomic status of those we serve.

>> Read the full commentary at Hospital Impact