Addressing disparities in care

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Addressing disparities in care

Variation in health care is a common theme in the Alliance’s work. The Community Checkup report released last December highlights how this variation is found across geographies and among medical groups, clinics and hospitals. Now a new report that the Alliance is preparing to release next week illustrates that disparities in care are a significant problem in Washington.

Using Medicaid data, the Alliance was able to look at how care is delivered to people based on their race, ethnicity and language (REL).  (Note: Unfortunately, REL data is not readily available for the commercially insured population.) The results are cause for concern and a call to action. For example:

  • Only one-third of Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino patients are still taking antidepressant medication after six months, ten percentage points below the state average.
  • Fewer than half of Hispanic or Latino patients with diabetes are screened for eye disease, compared to 63 percent for the state average.
  • Patients speaking Asian or Pacific Island languages are significantly less likely to have access to care for children ages 2 to 6, a critical time in a child’s development.

This marks the fourth report on disparities that the Alliance has produced. This year, we are very pleased to partner with Qualis Health, which has provided the Alliance with data for Medicare enrollees for six of the measures in the report. This combination of data adds an additional element to inform how clinicians serving our community can better target improvement efforts.

The implications of these findings extend well beyond what is happening today. As demographics change and Washington’s population becomes even more diverse, there is increased urgency to ensure that all of our state’s citizens receive high-quality care.

The Alliance hopes that these findings will contribute to a continuing call to action that will lead to effective quality improvement efforts to improve the health of all the people in our state.  The sooner health care organizations successfully address disparities in care, the better they will be positioned in this increasingly and rapidly changing landscape that places a greater emphasis on effective population health management.

The Alliance thanks the five organizations that voluntarily supplied data for this report: Amerigroup, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care Health, Molina Healthcare of Washington and UnitedHealthCare Community Plan. We are gratified by the continued support of our data suppliers to help us in the important work of improving health care in Washington state.

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