In 2022, the Human Rights Campaign released its updated Healthcare Equality Index, which promotes equitable and inclusive care for LGBTQIA+ patients, healthcare workers and their families. In addition to offering guidance for hospitals worldwide, the index is a valuable tool for addressing roadblocks on the journey to achieving safer care for all.
The impact of health inequities is far and widespread, impeding infectious disease prevention, increasing community-level crime and violence, substance abuse, mental health distress, and poverty levels. These significant barriers to health keep patients from receiving timely care and exacerbate the stress on health organizations because it reduces the opportunity for preventative care and often ends up addressed in an acute care setting. Beyond the ethical considerations, an equitable approach to care will also positively impact the way health systems do business, with the cost of disparities amounting to billions of dollars annually.
Here are some tangible actions your organization can take today to promote health equity for your teams, patients and communities.
Address internal inequities head-on
Organizations can begin their health equity journeys by looking internally to address the day-to-day inequities. These are often rooted in the very foundations of administrative processes, ranging from workforce management and advancement to incident analysis and peer review. What’s more, issues like workplace violence often disproportionately impact minority identity groups. Health systems have a responsibility to address these shortfalls by administering organizational DEI at a systematic level, bringing their policies, procedures and equity metrics online to ensure that staffing, compensation and promotion practices adequately represent their values.
Even in instances where individuals and organizations approach DEI in good faith, it’s often difficult for them to tell how effectively they’re achieving internal equity without a way to measure it. By taking active steps to build that insight through systems and policies, organizations can move beyond the basics and ensure everyone is compensated, staffed and treated fairly.
Transform care through systematic approaches
Earlier this year, the Joint Commission revised requirements to help reduce healthcare disparities across the industry, requiring organizations to stratify quality and safety data to identify population inequities, while creating and maintaining an action plan to address disparities.
This is a critical step forward, as healthcare organizations must first consider and address the obstacles to care that often impact underrepresented and underserved communities. This also opens up an opportunity for organizations to build more equitable care practices directly into the everyday processes and technologies they already use.
Healthcare systems can manage the complexity and promote DEI by incorporating external requirements directly into their compliance and governance ecosystems, while also setting internal standards to formalize processes that lead to more equitable and affirming care.
Additionally, integrating DEI into clinical and administrative processes naturally introduces a channel for more purpose-based equity training and helps assign institutional leaders as advocates for specific communities where needed.
Realize the value of investing in health equity
Investing in healthcare equity helps close the care gap and ultimately reduces risks, fosters healthy communities and — most importantly — saves lives. In the process, we can also make our hospitals more welcoming, positioning them as the healthcare organizations of choice for our communities.
A systematic approach provides organizations with the tools to be more considerate and consistent about how they collect and use patient data, as well as communicate that information with colleagues, patients and their families.
By providing more equitable, aligned and affirming care, health systems can reduce obstacles at both the patient and community level, and re-envision policies or practices to address adverse social determinants of health and improve patient outcomes.
At the end of the day, we owe it to our patients and our communities to eliminate inequities that pervade our current healthcare ecosystem. Championing healthcare equity means everyone has an equal chance at a healthy life — ensuring healthcare is better and safer for us all.