The Ripple Effect of Managing Health Disparities
The National Institutes of Health defines health disparities as "the difference in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of disease and other adverse health conditions that exists among specific population groups ….” Many factors may impact an individual’s health status and outcomes, including age, gender, socioeconomic status, educational background, race/ethnicity, language and culture, sexual orientation, disability status, and even geographic locale.
All for One, One for All
Often, identifying and addressing a single health disparity can have a tremendous health and cost impact across a larger population. By addressing an issue in a subset of the population, often one solves systemic issues. When addressed for one, the positive impact extends to all.
Insight MD interprets healthcare analytics through both a clinical and business lens to address many of the manifestations and consequences of health disparities, including:
- variations in quality of care
- barriers to care
- diagnosis at a later or more severe stage of disease
- greater difficulty with adherence to treatment plans
- medically inexplicable variability in the type and scope of options offered to a patient
- less than optimal management of chronic pain
- unconscious bias by healthcare professionals
- greater utilization of the emergency room
- higher rates of readmission
- higher cost of care
According to the 2012 National Healthcare Disparities Report (current as of June 2013) by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), areas in need of urgent attention in order to ensure continued improvements include:
- diabetes care
- maternal and child health care
- cancer care
- adverse events
Figure H.10. Overall Quality of Care by State
Source: 2012 State Snapshots.
Note: States are divided into quartiles based on overall health care score.
With some of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is the hope of expanded health insurance coverage and access to care. There are provisions in the ACA which incentivize approaches that address health disparities. But the road to health equity is long and circuitous and requires creativity, innovation, and collaboration. The cost of not moving forward is measured not just in dollars but in lives. The good news? Quite frequently when solutions are sought to address health inequities for subpopulations, the systemic changes which are needed improve care across the board and benefit us all.
Learn how Insight MD can help you manage health disparities, contact us today.