A national effort to promote more engagement among hospitals toward addressing racial health disparities has been fully embraced by community healthcare providers in Maryland.
The state has become the first in the nation to get all of its 46 community acute-care hospitals to participate in the Equity of Care initiative, a collaboration of the American College of Healthcare Executives, American Hospital Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association and America's Essential Hospitals.
“We are very pleased that every acute-care community hospital in the state has decided to participate,” said Carmela Coyle, CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association. “But of course we're just starting the really hard work, and that is the work of focusing on and resolving care disparities.”
The campaign's focus is to better identify vulnerable populations in communities with gaps in health outcomes in order to devise effective strategies toward eliminating those disparities. Part of the effort involves increasing the collection and use of demographic data, increasing cultural competency training for health providers, and adding diversity within the leadership at healthcare systems.
More than 1,000 hospitals nationwide have signed on to the Equity campaign since its launch in 2011. Participating providers agree to track a quality measure by race to help determine if a health disparity exists.
Coyle said the increased push toward a value-based payment model for providers has been a huge incentive for hospitals to take a closer look at ways to address factors that help create gaps in health outcomes within communities.
“Basically, if we can't manage the health of our population within a fixed payment amount, we will not be successful,” Coyle said. “These value-based payment methodologies encourage healthcare leaders to reach into their communities and to know them and understand them better.”