HealthPartners, an integrated system based in Bloomington, Minn., looks at claims data to address healthcare disparities among its patient population.
The health system has leveraged its data on members to compare patients who receive preventive screening for colon cancer. They found in 2009 that 69% of white patients received recommended colorectal cancer screening while just 43% of minority patients were screened.
"The more data, the more insight," said Dr. Charlie Fazio, senior vice president and medical director of HealthPartners.
To address the disparity, HealthPartners set up meetings with different minority populations to try to understand what might be preventing them from getting colonoscopies. The system found there was a lot of negative stigma around the test. "We found that the idea of colonoscopy was a barrier. There is some fear around it," Fazio said.
HealthPartners began to educate patients about the test and why it's so important.
The community meetings also shed light on personal issues. Some patients expressed that it was difficult to miss work or find transportation to have the procedure done.
HealthPartners acted on those worries and mailed patients testing kits if they hadn't been screened; the tests can be mailed back for preliminary screening. If the results come back abnormal, the patient will need to come in for a colonoscopy. "But for lots of patients the test is going to be normal," Fazio said.
The efforts have increased the percentage of minority patients who receive colon cancer screening from 43% in 2009 to 67% today.
Similar efforts by the system around breast cancer screening have also paid off. About 77% of minority patients received breast cancer screening, up from 69% in 2006.
"In our care system we work hard to close any gaps we can find," Fazio said.