AMA, organizations launch effort to apply equity lens to patient care

CHICAGO — Building on a shared commitment to eliminating health inequities, the American Medical Association (AMA) in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Joint Commission today announced the creation of a learning network designed to help hospital systems apply an equity lens to all aspects of quality and safety practices— with a goal of improving health outcomes for historically marginalized populations.  

The Advancing Equity through Quality and Safety Peer Network—a year-long mentorship and networking program that the organizations are piloting—will equip eight participating health systems with the foundational knowledge and concrete tools to embed equity throughout their institutions’ health care delivery practices and advance racial justice and equity for their patients, staff, and communities.

“For the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed systemic inequities in the quality and safety of the patient care experience—including gaps in interpretation services, telemedicine access, and crisis standards of care,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “Through collaborations like the Peer Network, the AMA continues its work to remove the social and structural factors that interfere with patient-centered care—providing health systems with guidance to inform equitable solutions, dismantle inequities, and improve health outcomes for our patients from historically marginalized communities.”

Data illustrates the stark contrast in experience and outcomes for historically marginalized patients within health care settings. As one example, studies show that Black, Latinx, and Asian American patients are at a significantly higher risk of contracting—and in many cases, dying from—preventable hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA, C. diff, or catheter-associated UTIs than non-Latinx white patients.

Through individual consultations and group learning opportunities with the Peer Network’s panel of subject matter experts, Peer Network participating health systems will learn strategies for systematically identifying and addressing root causes of inequities via an integrated approach to quality, safety, equity, and operations. Utilizing a framework designed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to reduce health inequities within clinical operations by leveraging an infrastructure of quality and safety, this patient-centered approach includes robust structural analyses of racism and equity to support an overall mission of delivering equitable, high-quality care to all patients.

“We are thrilled that the Peer Network represents the first phase of amplifying this approach measuring the impact of racial justice and equity nationally by testing it with a group of early adopter institutions,” said Sonali Desai, M.D., M.P.H., Interim Chief Quality Officer at the Brigham. “It’s so important to empower health care providers and health systems to dismantle structural racism and additional intersecting systems of oppression. In addition, the Peer Network provides the ability to share experiences and learn from one another.”

“Every patient deserves the right to safe, equitable healthcare,” said Joint Commission President and CEO Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., Ph.D. “The COVID-19 pandemic placed sharp focus on the unacceptable disparities in health outcomes, demonstrating significant work that must be done. All healthcare organizations have a responsibility to identify and address the disparities that their unique patient populations face. We look forward to working with others in the Peer Network in implementing sustainable solutions for equitable excellence in healthcare.”

The first phase of the Peer Network’s approach will begin with a national group of early adopter institutions as participants, including:

  • Atlantic Medical Group/Atlantic Health
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics
  • Ochsner Health
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • University of Wisconsin Hospitals & Clinics

Advancing its mission to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health, the AMA is working to eliminate longstanding health inequities—improving health outcomes and closing inequities gaps rooted in historical and contemporary injustices and discrimination. The Peer Network initiative aligns with an approach to address all determinants of health outlined in the AMA’s three-year strategic plan dedicated to embedding racial justice and advancing health equity, calling on physicians to help dismantle the structural and social drivers of health inequities. Learn more about ongoing efforts at the AMA’s Center for Health Equity.

By Percy