Friday, May 24, 2013

Tackling disparities in a systematic way


Efforts to reduce disparities are a priority at the MGH. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Disparities, created in 2003 by MGH President Peter L. Slavin, MD, in response to an Institute of Medicine report, “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,” which found disparities in health care across the nation. The report showed that, even with the same socioeconomic background and insurance, minorities may have received lower quality care for the same clinical conditions as their white counterparts.

Ten years later, Joseph Betancourt, MD, director of the Disparities Solutions Center – who co-chairs the disparities committee along with Joan Quinlan, MPP, executive director of the Center for Community Health Improvement – discusses the progress made and the need for continued advancements.

Q. What is the task of the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Disparities?

A. The committee identifies key areas where racial disparities in health care may exist at the MGH and develops solutions to address these disparities. Since its formation, the committee has initiated a series of programs and projects to achieve health care equity for all MGH patients.

Q. What are some of the committee’s most notable achievements?

A. Some of our important milestones include, but are not limited to, creating the country’s first disparities dashboard in 2007, which is an annual report which monitors our quality of care at MGH by race, ethnicity and language. It is also the first publicly available report on equity in health care quality. We are also proud of a patient experience survey we administered at the MGH in both 2004 and 2012 to explore trends in patient satisfaction connected to racial, ethnic and linguistic disparities in health care. Patient care services were enhanced as a result of that data. Our programs to address disparities in diabetes and colon cancer screening also have been very successful.

Q. How does the Disparities Solutions Center (DSC) fit into these efforts?

A. The committee focuses its work at the MGH, while the DSC, created in 2005, takes lessons learned here and translates them into national resources. There are plenty of centers that conduct research on racial disparities, but the DSC is different because it works with leaders from health plans, hospitals and health centers across the country to take action to better identify and address disparities, improve quality of care and achieve equality for all. Joan Quinlan and the Center for Community Health Improvement, leaders at MGH and its health centers, and the Center for Quality and Safety are key, equal partners in this work.

Q. What excites you the most about your work with the DSC and the disparities committee?

A. I am excited about the fact that the MGH has taken action. We’re one of the few hospitals around the country who can say we are tackling disparities in a systematic way. We are measuring and monitoring our progress in equity and developing interventions to address disparities when we discover them. We have built the infrastructure to assure that anyone who enters our doors at MGH – regardless of their race, ethnicity, culture or class – receives the highest quality of care. When they don’t, we’ve developed immediate interventions. Our responsibility now is to continue to lead the nation in the next 10 years, as we as a team have done for the past decade. All who work or receive care at the MGH should be proud of what we have accomplished together.

For more information about the MGH Committee on Racial and Ethnic Disparities and the Disparities Solutions Center, visit the group’s new website at

Read more articles from the 05/24/13 Hotline issue.

Browse the Entire Newsroom Archive

Back to Top