The Health Industry’s Progress Toward Equity and Eliminating Disparities: A Look at Healthcare Providers

In an earlier post, we provided a snapshot of some of the actions Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) members in the biopharmaceutical sector are taking to advance equity within our healthcare system and eliminate health disparities.

This is a priority for HLC and its membership from all sectors of American healthcare. Our members are each committed to ensuring that the healthcare system works for all citizens and they are devoting energies and resources to initiatives aimed at making this happen.

Today, we are going to use this space to examine what several of the nation’s leading healthcare providers are doing to advance health equity, and it’s worth noting that what is summarized in this post only scrapes the surface of the numerous programs these organizations are carrying out.

AdventHealth is working with community-based organizations to increase access to care for underserved communities. These collaborations include partnerships with federally-qualified health centers, houses of worship, and local nonprofit organizations. The health system is advocating for the development and adoption of national social determinants of health data standards. AdventHealth is also developing health equity plans to address potential disparities within its facilities and communities, working to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for all team members, and advocating for policies that increase access to treatment and promote equitable care.

For Ascension, community impact work is focused on leveraging the power of data to understand the unique needs of different communities and inform funding strategies. By gathering social determinants of health data, Ascension can best determine how best to deploy resources and investments to improve access to care and help close the gap on life expectancy. Current priorities for the organization’s community impact work include maternal care, diabetes and behavioral health. Ascension has also established the Ascension Foundation, a national foundation focused on addressing root causes of health disparities in the United States, partnering with organizations that are already making measurable strides toward health equity.

Atrium Health is committed to cross-sector partnerships that are addressing social drivers of health and addressing health equity. These collaborations include a Community Resource Hub, an electronic platform that connects patients to free or reduced-cost services, including transportation, legal assistance, food and more; Feeding Charlotte, a local “food rescue operation that retrieves unused perishable food at several Atrium Health facilities and distributes it to local nonprofit food pantries; investments in affordable housing throughout the Charlotte region; and a partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina to provide legal advocacy to Atrium patients on insurance coverage, unemployment benefits, unsafe housing and other needs.

Fairview Health is aligning its equity data collection fields between human resources, patient data, and community characteristics to better understand the intersection between healthcare outcomes, diversity, equity and inclusion goals and health equity goals. The Minnesota-based health system has strengthened its engagement infrastructure by building on trusting relationships and enabling community voices to inform and influence both inside and outside the system. This includes local community advisory committees that include community-based organizations, public health and internal stakeholders such as physicians and administrative leaders.

Marshfield Clinic Health System is one of four healthcare systems in the state of Wisconsin to make a formal commitment to eliminate healthcare disparities in the state. It is developing an Ambassador program and Business Resource Groups to promote equity and inclusion in the workplace and has formed a partnership with the Cross Cultural Health Care Program for cultural competency consulting and training. Marshfield is forming partnerships with community-based organizations to address the social determinants of health needs of its patients, and is serving on the Governor’s Health Equity Council and other state and national collaboratives to address equity.

Mayo Clinic is building a health equity dashboard with key metrics that will be accessible to all departments and divisions within the organization. It has created an internal Community Coalition, made up of internal stakeholders that are focused externally with community-facing partners. The goal of this initiative is to align efforts on health equity and look for synergies in respective group activities. Mayo is also building a repository to house and coordinate all of the organization’s health equity activities. A Health Equity workgroup is made up of site liaisons who are partnering with clinical practice areas to collect health equity efforts from each site and share best practices.

To address healthcare access issues, MemorialCare has provided information and enrollment assistance in the Covered California healthcare exchange and other low-cost insurance programs. It also provides transportation support for those patients and families who are not able to access needed care due to a lack of transportation. MemorialCare provides support and services to community residents that removed barriers to care and increased access to healthcare and preventive measures. Health and wellness education classes have covered such topics as healthy eating, stroke prevention, diabetes, heart disease, cancer prevention and stress management.

Mount Sinai Health System maintains an Executive Diversity Leadership Board that includes hospital presidents, senior leadership and trustees and is accountable for leading and developing strategies to address structural and systemic racism; promoting, instilling and demonstrating anti-racist behaviors; driving equitable practices to enhance quality and outcomes centering on marginalized or oppressed groups; and reporting progress on outcomes and implementing recommendations for continuing improvement. The system’s areas of focus in this arena range from data analytics to education and training to supplier diversity.

NewYork-Presbyterian maintains the Dalio Center for Health Justice, which address the health disparities of employees, patients and communities through research, health education and programs that foster equity in clinical operations and enhance the culturally sensitive care provided by NewYork-Presbyterian. It focuses on comprehensive analysis to understand more fully social determinants of health, creating a robust and diverse health equity database to inform the center’s work in developing community-based initiatives, advocating locally and nationally for change, seeking grants, and producing an institutional equity report. It also focuses on examining and addressing unconscious bias in medicine and clinical trials.

NorthShore University HealthSystem is engaged with the city of Chicago in a five-year program to close what is, according to research, the largest life expectancy gap in the country. Neighborhoods just nine miles apart have a 30-year gap in life expectancy. NorthShore is working to accurately capture race, ethnicity and language preferences in its patient community and ensure that all patient perspectives are captured in measurement systems. The system is investing leading practices and new ways to listen to patients and understand social determinants of health and is partnering with like-minded community organizations to close the gap on health disparities across key preventive practices and chronic diseases.

Texas Health Resources’ Community Impact program uses cross-sector collaborative grants to address local community needs in resourceful and innovative ways. This data-driven, outcomes-focused approach pinpoints North Texas zip codes most in need of assistance and drives how Texas Health engages with leaders, influencers and existing resources within those underserved areas. This program is responding to health disparities, eliminating root causes of chronic disease and providing tools that instill lifelong health and well-being. And the health system’s Mobile Health Unit brings cancer screenings and other health services to residents throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Our next post will take a look at health equity initiatives in the medical technology sector.