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Use this Medicare tool to pinpoint health disparities in your community

May 30, 2019

    Provider organizations must bring the same strategic rigor to community health investments as they do to traditional hospital programming. Otherwise, efforts stand to lose leadership buy-in, funding, and momentum before they get off the ground. To make the most of limited resources, provider organizations must take a data-driven approach to identifying target patient populations and community health gaps.

    Get 10 tools for prioritizing community health interventions

    However, finding reliable market-specific data can be a challenge, especially sources that drill down to the demographic level. Today, we want to introduce a helpful data source to keep on your radar:  The Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool, which CMS' Office of Minority Health recently updated with data through 2017.

    How can this tool help you?

    The Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool is an online platform  designed to help you analyze and visualize health disparities for Medicare beneficiaries in any region of the United States. Suppose you're working to improve your diabetes management program—research has already demonstrated racial disparities in diabetes rates at a national scale, but how do those disparities affect your service area? You can use this tool to understand the prevalence data in your community to inform programming in specific neighborhoods. As an example, we've highlighted how the tool can do that for Washington, D.C.

    Start by choosing the following settings in the menu options alongside the map:

    • Year: 2017
    • Geography: County
    • Measure: Prevalence
    • Analysis: Within county difference
    • Condition/Service: Diabetes
    • Race and Ethnicity: Black
    • Comparison Race and Ethnicity: White

    Then specify your state and county in the box on the top-left to bring up diabetes data for Medicare patients in your region. In Washington, D.C., we can see that Black Medicare beneficiaries—our "Primary Group"—are nearly three times as likely to have diabetes as white beneficiaries.

    It's also possible to view change over time with the tool. Set Year to 2012-2017 and click "Trend View" to track this racial disparity over time. Diabetes disparities is a longstanding issue in DC, remaining almost constant over the past five years.

    From here, there are endless options to explore the data. If you change your Analysis to "Difference in differences," and zoom out to click on counties in Maryland and Virginia, you can see how disparities at the county level compare with prevalence rates for the broader region. In other words, you can check if your county is an outlier when it comes to racial disparities in diabetes, or whether your prevalence rates are on par with every corner of the state.

    You can also change your selection of "Condition/Service" to examine racial disparities in chronic conditions ranging from asthma to hypertension. You can further customize your analysis by narrowing your choices for age, sex, and dual eligible status. You can download the data at any time to share with colleagues or run your own analyses.

    While Medicare data doesn't tell the whole story for your system, it can be a helpful starting point for highlighting health disparities and opportunities for interventions that may exist in your broader community. Register for our upcoming Health Equity 101 webconference to learn more about taking a strategic approach to identifying your community's most pressing health disparities.


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