Diversity Committee Aims to Eliminate Health Care Disparities

Patient1 300x200 Diversity Committee Aims to Eliminate Health Care Disparities

Mission’s Diversity Committee was founded in 1996, and is currently composed of 13 people, including physicians, hospital leaders, administrators, and front line staff.  Three subcommittee are contained within the committee, relating to data, education, and the community. Most of us know that Mission’s Diversity Committee is part of the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. celebration that we share with MAHEC every year, but does the committee work to achieve on the other 364 days of the year?

Current Goals

One of the most important issues the group is addressing is a nationwide issue: improving disparities in health care. Mission hospital has always been committed to providing everyone in our region excellent care. How can we as an organization ensure that everyone, regardless of their race, age, or sexual orientation, is receiving the same quality of care?

What is “Health Care Disparity”?

According to the National Congress of State Legislatures, the term health care disparities refers to, “…population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, quality of health care and access to health care services that exist across racial and ethnic groups.” Clearly, giving everyone access to the same quality of care is simply the right thing to do, but it also saves money. Our system goal, the BIG(GER) Aim, states that we strive to get each patient to the desired outcome, first without harm, also without waste, and with an exceptional experience for both the patient and family.  Health care disparities represent a lack of efficiency within the health care system and inefficiency=unnecessary costs. According to a 2009 study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, eliminating health disparities for minorities would have reduced direct medical care expenditures by $ 229.4 billion between 2003 and 2006.

There is no one cause of this inequity; many factors contribute to racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health disparities, including inadequate access to care, poor quality of care, community features (such as poverty and violence) and personal behaviors. People living in both urban and rural areas may experience health disparities. For example, people living in our more rural areas of WNC experience may experience inequity in mental health care. Contributing factors would include limited access to mental health care, and also cultural barriers to seeking help such as pride in self-reliance.

Plan of Action

Mission has collected data on race in the past, but there is a renewed commitment to collecting better data (we’re only as good as the data we can collect) and then analyzing this information. The data dashboard includes information that the hospital already collects (such as safety measures and patient satisfaction) along with information such as interpreter services.

Caregivers must continue to have better conversations with our all of our patients in order to get the necessary information. One way of achieving this goal will be the implementation of a comprehensive communication-based cultural competency course for all employees. This coursework will springboard off the communication in healthcare course that each employee takes and will work to address several areas in order to eliminate health care disparities:

• promote awareness of cultural differences and how those differences factor into patient’s decision making

• help providers be more sensitive to these differences or beliefs in order to make sure each patient is offered equal care

• educate caregivers about their own preconceived ideas about minority populations that may contribute to healthcare disparities

Diversity for our Employees

Previously, the diversity committee was mostly an HR function and worked to make sure that our staff represented the community we serve. One of the most important achievements of the diversity committee within the last few years was its role in advocating for same sex partner benefits. The diversity committee is committed to working on the new initiatives with our patients in Western North Carolina, and they will continue to work in the Mission community to make sure our staff represents the community we serve.

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