Health disparities are differences in outcomes of health that have a close relationship to socio-economic and/or environment disadvantage. Healthy People is a framework aimed at reducing health disparities, and improving the health of everyone regardless of their socioeconomic situation. Healthy People 2020 is making progress to reduce health disparities. However, there are still disparities that exist, such as in access to healthcare, health outcomes and the quality of health care. Tools are needed to understand and identify the gaps in healthcare.
Do you have any tools for identifying these gaps? There are several tools to help identify care gaps. The National Healthcare Disparities Report is one such tool, providing annual data about disparities in access to, utilization of, and quality of healthcare. This report analyses data on disparities affecting health care, such as racial/ethnic disparities and socioeconomic disparities. It also analyzes disparities relating to healthcare quality. Other tools that help identify gaps in care include the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit and the Office of Minority Health’s National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care.
How would you design a screening instrument to remove a health care barrier? It would have to be culturally sensitive and take into consideration the individual needs of every patient. The tool would consist of a series of questions that assess the patient’s understanding of their health condition, their ability to access care, and their preferences for care. The questions would be tailored to the patient’s cultural background, language, and literacy level, and would be designed to identify any barriers to care that the patient may be facing.
What resources will you require to resolve this issue? It could be administered either by healthcare professionals, social workers or community health staff who are trained in cultural literacy and competency. To effectively identify and address barriers to care, providers would need to work closely with interpreters and cultural brokers who are familiar with the patient’s culture and language. The providers would need to work with agencies and community groups that could help the patients to access services and resources that they may require to overcome any barriers.
Does this work in the clinic environment? What is your answer? This screening tool can be used in a clinic. It is flexible, adaptable and can be integrated with existing processes for patient assessment. This tool will require more training from healthcare professionals, but could improve care quality for people of diverse backgrounds. This screening tool will also assist clinics in meeting the standards of cultural and linguistic competency that regulatory agencies like The Joint Commission require.
To conclude, it is crucial to understand and eliminate disparities within healthcare, no matter what the socioeconomic background of an individual. Understanding and tackling these disparities requires tools such as the National Healthcare Disparities Report and Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit. The development of culturally-competent screening tools, which are adaptable and flexible to the individual patient’s needs can be used to help identify and address barriers to healthcare and to improve quality care for diverse patients. For providers to be successful, they must collaborate closely with community groups, interpreters and cultural brokers to overcome the barriers that patients face.