Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, HHS' deputy assistant secretary for minority health and director of the HHS Office of Minority Health, said the standards are not regulations, but rather a framework for health and healthcare organizations to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services and care for diverse communities.
“So part of what we will be doing—certainly with this release and beyond—is really working to educate, educate across sectors, about the enhanced CLAS standards, understanding what the standards are, understanding the resources that are available,” Gracia said during a news conference at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington. “For example, blueprints, toolkits that others can utilize within their own hospital systems to be able to share models that have worked so that, again, hospitals and health systems that haven't engaged in this don't necessarily have to reinvent the wheel.”
The 15 measures begin with a “principal standard” of providing effective, equitable, understandable and respectful quality care and services that respond to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, languages and health literacy. From there, the remaining 14 standards fall into the three categories of governance, leadership and workforce; communication and language assistance; and engagement, continuous improvement and accountability. Within those themes, some of the recommendations include recruiting and promoting a culturally diverse governance, leadership and workforce; offering language assistance to those with limited English proficiency or other communication needs; and conducting regular assessments of health assets and needs in a community.
The Office of Minority Health relied on guidance from both federal and nonfederal experts—such as the American Hospital Association—to develop the enhanced CLAS standards. At the news conference in Washington, Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the AHA, offered the AHA's support for the standards and also offered a reason why the nation's hospitals should implement them.
“For a long time, we have certainly promoted the importance of eliminating disparities in care because it's the right thing to do,” Umbdenstock said. “But today, in a much more pay-for-performance kind of environment, there's a new dimension, and that's the business case. Organizations and professionals will not be able to break through to the next level of quality if they don't know—in very specific detail—the populations they serve, the unique challenges of those populations, and then tailor the strategies of care to meet those needs.”
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