Friday, October 19, 2012

Forum focuses on improving equity


TAKING ACTION: Sarah Thomas of the National Committee for Quality Assurance speaks during a panel.


Racial and ethnic minorities often receive lower quality care and have poorer health outcomes than the majority population. On Sept. 24 and 25, the Healthcare Quality and Equity Action Forum – the first forum of its kind – brought together 150 health care leaders working to improve equity for patients across the country at a time of rapid change in the national health care system.

Hosted by the MGH Disparities Solutions Center (DSC) at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center in Boston, the forum included panels and workshops on topics ranging from “Crossing the Digital Divide: HIT and the Promise of Equity” to “What’s the Right Message: Crafting an Equity Communications Strategy.” Experts, including leaders from the MGH and Partners HealthCare, offered perspectives from private and public sectors at local and national levels.

Several sessions, such as “ACOs, PCMHs, VBP: Integrating Equity into the New ABCs of Health Care Reform and Payment Reform,” focused on factors driving the need for change. These include numerous federal initiatives aimed at improving care for the underserved – from enhanced coverage of preventive services to increased funding for patient-centered medical homes.

“Providing quality care to diverse populations will separate the winners from the losers as our health care system undergoes rapid change,” said DSC director Joseph Betancourt, MD, MPH. “Payment reform and health care reform stress the importance of delivering on our promise of quality for all patients, not just a select few. This will push us to tailor systems to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. Hopefully our forum begins this discussion nationally.”

The Healthcare Quality and Equity Action Forum was created through an initial grant from the Amgen Foundation in the fall of 2011. Since then, the DSC has received additional funding to support the forum in the form of educational grants from the following companies and foundations: Aetna Life Insurance Company, Amgen, Inc., The California HealthCare Foundation, The Commonwealth Fund, DentaQuest Foundation, Language Line Services, American Cancer Society and a private donor.

“This forum was an important step forward in continuing the Institute of Medicine’s emphasis on addressing equity in health care access and outcomes,” said attendee James Walton, DO, MBA, vice president for Network Performance for the Baylor Health Care System Quality Alliance. “I plan to apply lessons learned at my own institution.”

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