Stage 3 MU must tackle care disparities
August 27, 2013 in Medical Technology
The Consumer Partnership for eHealth, a coalition of more than 50 consumer, patient and labor organizations, has published an action plan designed to ensure that disparities of care are a critical focus of Stage 3 meaningful use.
Officials from CPeH say the plan, published Aug. 26, is the result of a year long review of scientific literature and collaboration with experts on disparities and health information technology. It focuses on data collection and use to identify disparities; language, literacy and communication; and care coordination and planning.
The plan seeks to integrate disparities reduction with the other criteria in Stage 3 to improve the identification and understanding of health disparities while improving health outcomes. CPeH has submitted the plan to the Health IT Policy Committee, with a request that the committee consider and act on its recommendations.
“It’s impossible to achieve better health outcomes and significantly reduce health care costs without tackling health disparities, which are a pervasive and costly problem,” said Debra L. Ness, president of National Partnership for Women Families, in a press statement.
“We have the chance to leverage Stage 3 of the meaningful use program to make significant progress in addressing disparities,” said Ness. “We must not squander this opportunity. CPeH has created a bold, yet achievable, path forward for including criteria in Stage 3 that will begin to reduce disparities and, in doing so, help us achieve patient- and family-centered care, better outcomes and lower costs for everyone.”
According to data from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the combined costs of health disparities and premature death in the United States were $1.24 trillion, from 2003 to 2006. The costs associated with health disparities will only increase as the country becomes more diverse, CPeH argues, pointing out that the majority of children under age one in the United States are now minorities, according to the U.S. Census.
“Every American deserves an equal chance at a full, healthy life,” said Ness. “We need policymakers to recognize that health IT offers a way to give every American that chance.”
Toward that end, CPeH’s plan makes the case that data collection and use can help physicians and hospitals identify disparities in health and healthcare and better understand how to reduce them.
Today, the meaningful use program only requires a basic level of race, ethnicity and gender data collection based on standards created by the Office and Management and Budget; the action plan recommends transitioning to the more rigorous data collection standards designed by the Department of Health and Human Services, similar to what the Census uses to help providers better recognize, track, understand and address disparities and expand data collection to include disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Disparities Action Plan also: