The Health Industry’s Progress Toward Equity and Eliminating Disparities: A Look at Healthcare Distributors and Group Purchasing Organizations

Addressing health equity and eliminating disparities in healthcare delivery and access continues to be a major priority for every sector of the healthcare industry. Throughout the year, this platform has been examining how leaders within these different sectors – members of the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) – have been crafting and implementing innovative approaches to make healthcare more accessible and quality-driven for all Americans and to improve health outcomes.

Today, in this space, we’re going to spotlight what the nation’s leading healthcare distributors and group purchasing organizations are doing to address health disparities. It is important to note that, in the interests of space, we are providing just a brief summary of a selection of actions these companies are taking, not the entirety of their extensive efforts.

AmerisourceBergen’s Cencora Foundation has a mission to improve the health and well-being of patient populations by partnering with organizations to expand access to healthcare around the world. To advance access to care in underserved communities, the foundation is partnering with organizations that are already embedded in those communities. Cencora focuses on partnering with organizations that are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in the work they do. In fiscal year 2022, Cencora provided over $6.3 million in donations focusing on three areas – human health, animal health and prescription drug safety.

The company has worked to advance equity in other ways, such as hosting a first-ever Disparities in Cancer Care Summit, bringing together healthcare industry executives, community oncology provider and patient care advocates to address topics such as the use of personalized medicine in addressing health equity, community oncology’s role in bring down barriers to cancer care, payer perspectives on diversity, equity and inclusion in cancer treatment, and the use of digital tools to deliver equitable care across diverse patient populations.

At Cardinal Health, the company’s Sonexus Access and Patient Support program develops tailored solutions to help patients get on, and stay on, prescription medication therapies. The business offers patient assistance programs for uninsured and underinsured patients and provides services that assist patients who are waiting for a response from their insurance companies to get time-sensitive medications. In fiscal year 2023, these patient assistance programs dispersed more than 1,650 medication shipments a day totaling more than $5.1 billion in free medicines.

And, Cardinal Health’s social determinants of health screening service, Outcomes, helps pharmacists identify high-need areas among their patients and links them with local resources to help resolve gaps. In a two-month pilot of the Outcomes screening service, pharmacists in 2,100 retail pharmacies screened more than 9,800 patients and those patients showed an average of $1,500 in decreased medical spending compared to patients who didn’t participate in the screening.

McKesson is playing a critical role in diversifying the healthcare talent pipeline beginning with pharmacists. The McKesson Foundation is donating more than $4 million in grants over the next five years to pharmacy schools at Hampton University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of New Mexico. These grants aim to boost the number of pharmacy students from diverse backgrounds and enhance the cultural competency of all pharmacy students. Advancing this diversity is important because patients report that having a healthcare provider of similar race or ethnic background is important to them and studies show this patient-provider concordance can improve health outcomes.

McKesson is also using its subject matter expertise and technology to better understand and mitigate some of the hurdles that patients face in enrolling and participating in clinical oncology trials. To help reduce health disparities and enhance trial representation, McKesson is advancing economic opportunities to foster trial participation for individuals from all backgrounds.

Premier, Inc.’s PINC AI Applied Sciences and Premier’s Strategic Collaborative teams are working with CaringWays, a private carefunding platform to advance health equity. Among other activities, the partnership is leveraging standardized and connected data analytics and a cross-functional stakeholder forum to identify priority patient populations. They are also designing ad conducting critical research projects to help test and pilot interventions focused on factors that contribute to health inequities including mental health, maternal and infant health, impact of cancer care, neurodegenerative conditions and social drivers of health. The partnership will focus on standardizing social determinants data collections, enhancing patient-specific social needs data, and creating a Health Equity index for use in hospitals and health systems across the nation aimed at supporting peer-to-peer benchmarking, improving care for populations that have been historically marginalized and guiding advocacy efforts that can impact legislative policies.

Vizient, Inc. has taken a bold step to strengthen the ability of hospitals and health systems to meet the needs of underserved populations and communities. The company launched the patent pending Vizient® Vulnerability Index™ that provides a unique level of visibility for healthcare organizations to assess social drivers of health that impact health equity in the communities they serve. The Vizient Vulnerability Index aggregates 43 social determinants of health data points into nine categories at the local, regional and national levels that impact health outcomes. Each category of data quantifies how specific vulnerabilities impact specific populations. Unlike other indices, the Vizient Vulnerability Index flexes to ensure the index values are location-appropriate. This allows for variation in the weighting of the domains across different geographic areas depending on what’s important.

With public access to the Vizient Vulnerability Index at no cost, providers can see beyond their walls, gain a deeper understanding of their neighborhoods, and begin to transform the health of their communities before a patient walks through the door.