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How one provider got serious about identifying health disparities

January 25, 2018

    Provider organizations involved in all types of payment models have a role to play in addressing health disparities—it's a $77 billion problem, and most hospitals don't have money to spare. But even the most progressive health systems under full-risk struggle with approaching the entrenched and often structural causes of health disparities. They get caught up on the first step—identifying their communities' most pressing disparities.

    Feb. 1 webinar: Learn best practices to identify and address health disparities

    Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, knows that the foundation of this work is connecting with their most vulnerable groups and ingraining organization-wide cultural competency. Moffitt, a 2017 honoree of the American Hospital Association's Equity of Care Award, takes three approaches to surfacing heath disparities across patient interactions: measuring areas for improvement, instituting system-wide training, and offering language services.

    1. Track patient data to determine areas for equity improvement

    Moffitt's Cultural and Linguistic Competence Steering Committee developed their Diversity Dashboard, a database that collects a range of demographic and patient data. Steering Committee staff analyze Dashboard data and other available trends to identify improvement opportunities for programs or gaps in services for historically at-risk subpopulations.

    2. Institute tailored staff cultural competency education system-wide

    When the data analysis surfaces gaps in processes or care, the staff education team develops learning modules to build staff's knowledge base. Cultural competency trainings are offered to all staff across the organization, from leadership to frontline—in fact, 100% of leadership across Moffitt have received diversity and inclusion training. The method of education delivery is customized by staff type, tailored to their roles and learning styles in order to reach the most people. For instance, a staff educator visits physician meetings to present short trainings to hard-to-reach providers, as opposed to recruiting busy physicians to attend lunch-and-learns.

    Moffitt's cultural competency training efforts are successful because they're continuous—rather than an annual high-level diversity training, the educator engages staff consistently with in-depth trainings, making a marked difference in patient management.

    3. Communicate effectively with patients using language services

    Of course, cultural competency offerings are incomplete without in-depth languages services for patients with limited English proficiency. After a patient advisory group and staff researchers indicated a need for Moffitt to offer language services, the cancer center developed a robust program for patients with all language needs.

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    Moffitt offers free translation and interpretation services. Interpretation is offered in-person, telephonically, or over video chat. Patients can access services across all clinical programs, in exam rooms, and even the operating room. Moffitt-hired qualified medical interpreters and translators work with patients who speak the most common language, Spanish, while the organization contracts out for other languages. Combined, Moffitt fulfills over 8,000 interpretation and translation requests annually.

    With an in-depth and intentional cultural competency strategy, Moffitt is able to strengthen its relationships with at-risk patient populations and surface their care needs.

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