LC: This goes back to the difference between equal and equitable care. Equitable care is focused on achieving high quality outcomes for all. That’s easily said, but not easily done – which is why health equity gaps persist nationwide despite widespread agreement that they are unacceptable.
Our approach to tackling health disparities has three major components. First, start by measuring your own system's disparities to understand what’s at issue. It takes courage to do this and be transparent about your outcomes – but it’s critical to take an unvarnished look. We can’t fix a problem we don’t fully understand.
Secondly, commit to action. It's one thing to understand your performance – it’s another to change it. Kristen cited a great example of our experience with African American asthma patients. Through research we discovered that 72% of those patients were driving up to eight miles to a hospital to access care, even though they lived within one mile of a clinic. The question we faced was what to do about it – try to address this through existing channels or do something bolder? We chose the latter and partnered with a local federally qualified health center to create a community-based program that has connected at-risk patients with a respiratory therapist with outstanding results.
And, lastly, you must build your commitment into your organization’s planning and measurement to create accountability. Health equity is highly complex work that’s not going to be solved in one quarter, or one year, or even three. At Sutter, health equity is fully embedded in our quality dashboard and it is part of our long-term strategy.