Upcoming Alliance reports shine a light on health inequity, patient experience

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Upcoming Alliance reports shine a light on health inequity, patient experience

Reducing underuse of effective care has been a long-standing goal of the Alliance. Addressing disparities in care, based on race, ethnicity, language or socioeconomic status, is one way to evaluate progress on this goal. This September, we will be releasing our third Disparities in Care report, revealing disparities in patient care based on race, language and ethnicity. As you will soon see, the results illustrate the need for effective improvement strategies and sharing promising practices so we can learn from each other as we address disparities in our state. You can learn more about the report on our blog.

On September 11, the Alliance will be hosting a Disparities in Care meeting, where county-level and private, clinic-level reports will be made available. The role of health plans in addressing disparities, especially in light of the increase of performance-based contracts and evolving health plan accreditation requirements will be the main focus. The meeting is targeted to providers and quality leaders so they can better understand and address disparities in their practice and community.

We are also excited to partner with Qualis to produce a report – one of only a handful in the nation – that looks at disparities in care for both Medicaid and Medicare enrollees. The combination of these reports will give us a more complete view of public payers in Washington and how providers serving both populations can better target improvement efforts.

We continue to applaud organizations joining in the movement toward greater health transparency. A few weeks ago, consumer-ratings website Yelp announced it was including more health care data in its ratings. While Yelp’s user experience is intuitive and their reach is undeniably broad, it could encourage unnecessary use of health care services. For example, you can view ER wait times, which is helpful if you have an acute medical issue, but could encourage unnecessary use of the ER as a more convenient option.

Also in September, for the third time the Washington Health Alliance will be undertaking a broad effort to measure and publicly report the experience patients have in their primary care doctor’s offices. Patient experience refers to what happens to patients when they are interacting with the health care system and trying to have their needs met. For example, it includes their experience in making an appointment for routine or urgent care and how easy it is to be seen at a time that they feel is needed. This is different than patient satisfaction, which measures their feelings about the health care they received. Studies have shown that, unlike patient experience, high patient satisfaction scores are not related to how likely you are to have better health overall.

We know patients are the best source of information about their experience. While ensuring a positive patient experience is an important goal in itself, research has shown that patient experience is related to other aspects of health care quality as well as to the business vitality of a medical practice. Most importantly, a positive patient experience is linked to patients being more likely to follow their doctor’s advice resulting in better patient outcomes. For doctors, a positive patient experience has been linked to improved financial performance, increased patient loyalty, improved employee satisfaction and a reduction in malpractice suits. Look for results of our 2015 survey next year.

We will continue to update you on the Alliance’s  work and invite you to be part of it. Thank you for your continued strong support of our work.

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