Health care systems start program to ensure equity in patient care

AMA, Joint Commission aim to improve outcomes for marginalized patients.

Embedding equity into patient care is the goal of new program of the American Medical Association (AMA) and eight health care systems around the nation.

The Advancing Equity Through Quality and Safety Peer Network is a collaboration with AMA, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Joint Commission accrediting organization to “apply an equity lens to all aspects of quality and safety practices.” The goal is to improve health outcomes for historically marginalized populations, according to a news release from AMA.

“For the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed systemic inequities in the quality and safety of the patient care experience—including gaps in interpretation services, telemedicine access, and crisis standards of care,” AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD, said in the press release. “Through collaborations like the Peer Network, the AMA continues its work to remove the social and structural factors that interfere with patient-centered care—providing health systems with guidance to inform equitable solutions, dismantle inequities, and improve health outcomes for our patients from historically marginalized communities.”

Data illustrate the contrast in health care experience and outcomes for historically marginalized patients. For example, studies show Black, Latinx, and Asian American patients are at a significantly higher risk of contracting — and in many cases, dying from — preventable hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA, Clostridioides difficile, or catheter-associated UTIs, than non-Latinx white patients, according to AMA.

Peer Network subject matter experts will use individual consultations and group learning to develop strategies that identify and address root causes of inequities. Participating health care systems also will use a system-wide framework developed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Institute of Healthcare Improvement to reduce health inequities. The patient-centered approach will analyze racism and equity to support an overall mission of delivering equitable, high-quality care to all patients, according to AMA.

“Every patient deserves the right to safe, equitable healthcare,” Joint Commission President and CEO Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, said in the press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic placed sharp focus on the unacceptable disparities in health outcomes, demonstrating significant work that must be done. All healthcare organizations have a responsibility to identify and address the disparities that their unique patient populations face. We look forward to working with others in the Peer Network in implementing sustainable solutions for equitable excellence in healthcare.”

The first phase of the Peer Network’s approach will begin with:

  • Atlantic Medical Group/Atlantic Health
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics
  • Ochsner Health
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • University of Wisconsin Hospitals & Clinics

The announcement comes as the latest step for the health care organizations to address racial inequity and social justice. AMA, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Joint Commission joined in July 2019 to create the framework and in January 2022 launched the Advancing Equity Through Quality and Safety Peer Network.

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