Industry widely sees equity as important, but lacks concrete steps to address it, survey finds

Most payer and provider organizations lack a formal roadmap for promoting health equity, and very few are certain it will be a priority in the immediate future.

Such were the findings of a new survey conducted by Vantage Health Technologes, a part of the BroadReach Group, a social impact organization. It surveyed 192 executives and leaders in healthcare to understand health equity goals. Most respondents came from payer organizations, and less than one-fifth came from providers. The rest came from entities that consult, provide tech services or do research.  

Nearly all believe it is important to address disparities in outcomes and quality measures. “Understanding the perceived importance of addressing health equity within an organization is the first step to addressing it,” the report said. Yet less than half of respondents have a partial, informal roadmap for promoting health equity. Of those, 53% are unsure if it will be a priority in the coming year. 

Data was identified as the biggest barrier to acting out health equity initiatives, followed by budget and guidelines or governance. Nearly half of respondents did not know if they collect race, ethnicity or language data on their care population, and more than half did not know if they have this data on their workforce. About 4% of respondents had this data on the bulk of their population and 8% had it on their workforce. A diverse workforce is critical to improving inequities among patients, the report said.

Of those surveyed, nearly half don’t provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care, and only provide care in English. More than half do offer care in other languages, but it is largely ad hoc. Not offering care in other languages affects patient understanding and comfort, as well as the quality of care. 

The NCQA Health Equity Accreditation is a framework for healthcare organizations on the topic. When asked whether their organization would pursue accreditation in the coming two years, more than 6 in 10 respondents were unsure. 

“To tackle these big challenges, you have to do it in collaboration with like-minded organizations,” the organization’s co-founder John Sargent, M.D., said in a panel announcing the report. “We sort of see this as the glass half full. We’re just literally in the first steps of a marathon and this will be a marathon—a long journey—for the healthcare industry, but the good news is this is a priority.”