DONATE TO THE DISPARITIES SOLUTIONS CENTER
The support of caring friends is essential to continuing the DSC’s crucial work. The Center received seed money from Mass General, but now relies on grants, contracts, and philanthropy to expand its programming and continue to foster change nationally.
With the philanthropy of individual, corporate, and foundation sponsors, we can make even further progress in identifying, understanding, and eliminating disparities in health care.
More than ten years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) sounded an alarm when its report, Unequal Treatment, concluded that racial and ethnic disparities in health care exist and are associated with worse outcomes. In the wake of that report, Massachusetts General Hospital President Peter Slavin, MD, focused the hospital’s attention on reducing health disparities.
One response was the formation of an action-oriented Disparities Solutions Center. Since 2005, the DSC has used Mass General’s successes in reducing health disparities as a model in engaging others nationally in the effort.
Aswita Tan-McGrory, Director (left) and Joseph Betancourt, Founder of the DSC (right)
MONITORING FOR DISPARITIES & IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS
Since 2004, Mass General has collected data and monitored for disparities in patient care through the Annual Report on Equity in Health Care Quality, an easy-to-read display of data comparing the care received by patients of various races, ethnicities, and languages. The report is developed by the DSC and the MGH Center for Quality and Safety.
Data collection and monitoring pointed to problem areas, as well as strategies for improvement. For example, data showed that Latino patients weren't getting colonoscopies at the same rates as non-Latino white patients. A program was implemented using outreach workers as "navigators" to provide patient education, identify why they wren't being tested, and accompanying them to screenings, if necessary. As a result of this program, the disparity was eliminated.
In 2014, the American Hospital Association awarded Mass General its first Equity of Care Award, recognizing the hospital’s achievements in dealing with health disparities. Few other organizations are at the point of developing interventions related to health disparities, but data gathering and monitoring to reveal inequities is a critical step in that direction.
LIVING LABS FOR INTERVENTION
Besides sponsoring webinars and producing informational tools, a key way the DSC translates what’s known about health disparities into solutions is through our year-long Disparities Leadership Program. Since 2007, we have trained hundreds of executives from hospitals, health plans, and other health care organizations across the country, including Puerto Rico, Canada, and Switzerland. The program helps leaders incorporate the latest information about how to reduce disparities into strategies they can take back to their institutions.
Our focus is on spreading our lessons nationally, crowd sourcing solutions through the Disparities Leadership Program, and creating a national movement to eliminate disparities. Executive alumni of the program stay in contact as a network and continue to share progress and ideas, magnifying the impact of the Disparities Solutions Center.
Organizations in the alumni network have been living labs for testing interventions. For example, the DSC developed a guide for how to prevent medical errors for those with limited English proficiency and piloted it at Mass General and three other organizations in the alumni network with successful results.