New Report Shows Progress in Eliminating Health Disparities

Eliminating disparities in health care is an important step toward the goals of reducing health care costs and increasing quality of care for all populations. Some leading hospitals and medical organizations have adapted their health care delivery systems to better serve minority populations in an effort to reduce medical errors, shorten lengths of hospital stays, and lower the number of costly emergency room visits attributed to racial and ethnic disparities.

Last October, New York Health Works highlighted the formation of a Regional Health Collaborative by New York-Presbyterian Hospital that sought to improve the health of residents in the largely Hispanic Washington Heights-Inwood community. The program, spearheaded by Dr. J. Emilio Carillo, created a network of patient-centered medical homes that linked to other providers and community-based resources. The first phase of the program was a success as it achieved a significant decline in emergency department visits for ambulatory care.

This New York initiative is one of nine case studies included in a new report by the American Hospital Association and partner organizations, “Eliminating Health Care Disparities: Implementing the National Call to Action Using Lessons Learned.”

The report finds that racial and ethnic disparities in health care, not attributed to other known factors such as access, can be reduced or eliminated by using a fact-based, patient centered approach that takes into consideration patients’ race, ethnicity, language, literacy, gender and disability needs. For example, New York-Presbyterian Hospital initiative, which primarily serves a Hispanic population, has reduced ER visits by nearly 10 percent as a result of requiring physicians and support staff to take a cultural competency class; employing bi-lingual patient navigators; centralizing call centers; and adding medical homes dedicated to specific illnesses or conditions affecting populations served.

The full text of the report, including other case studies, is available here.

-Jaime Venditti, 4/3/12