3 Data-Driven Keys to Address Health Equity

3 Data-Driven Keys to Address Health Equity. An illustration of the process of using hospital data to improve health equity.

The Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas has been working with Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI), an independent collaborator, to use social needs data to identify women who are economically vulnerable and face challenges accessing care and may be at an elevated risk for breast cancer. The initiative, which is part of the AHA’s Hospital Community Cooperative, has been successful in reducing disparities in care.

Through the lens of housing stability, access to transportation, food security, household income and other social needs, PCCI used data from Parkland’s electronic health records (EHRs), a cancer registry, focus group feedback and its community health needs assessment (CHNA) to pinpoint six ZIP codes in Dallas County with a higher number of late breast cancer diagnoses.

Parkland Health & Hospital System Mobil Mammography unit.With insights from the data analysis, Parkland revamped its community outreach campaigns, including sending mobile mammography units to neighborhoods and community-based organizations where they likely would have the greatest impact. A second intervention focused on strengthening the breast cancer continuum of care to ensure that patients remain in care until clear or treatment was completed. Parkland also embedded the project into its CHNA implementation plan.

Across the nation, a growing number of hospitals and health systems are tackling similar challenges by digging deeper into their data and taking a broader view of societal factors that influence health. By building on data from their EHRs, CHNAs and other public health sources, they are making progress and achieving positive results even with limited resources.

A new AHA Market Insights report, “Using Data to Reduce Health Disparities and Improve Health Equity,” provides insights into how hospitals and health systems can accelerate progress in this area. A companion report, “Societal Factors that Influence Health: A Framework for Hospitals,” explains how hospitals can address social needs and determinants as well as the systemic causes of health inequities.

3 Steps to Addressing Health Inequities: 1. Branch Out to Identify Disparities; 2. Investigate Patterns; 3. Use Data to Guide Interventions. Source: "Using Data to Reduce Health Disparities and Improve Health Equity," AHA report, 2021.

3 Steps to Addressing Health Inequities

Branch Out to Identify Disparities

Key to understanding the root causes of health disparities is by looking outside health care facilities. EHRs are a good place to start, but it’s important to build a comprehensive profile of community health needs by collaborating with community stakeholders and adding layers of other data sets to connect all the dots.

Investigate Patterns

Identify disparities by querying data sets to see how processes or outcomes differ by demographics, geography or another factor. Create internal benchmarks to identify variances in their practices that contribute to disparate outcomes, and supplement their own stratifications of patient data with regional or national benchmarks from their peers.

Use Data to Guide Interventions

Hospitals and health systems should use their data to guide the development of customized approaches that improve equitable patient care and outcomes. Understanding the common needs in the community in which patients live and work can direct hospitals and health systems to be more targeted in their strategies to develop partnerships with community-based organizations to proactively address patients’ needs. This, perhaps, is where data can help the most.

Coming Together to Find Solutions

To examine data-driven strategies and other ways to close the health equity gap, health care leaders will come together virtually March 16-18 for the AHA’s Accelerating Health Equity Conference. Hosted by two of AHA’s leading networks, AHA Community Health Improvement and the Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, the conference will explore issues such as:

  • Using advanced data analytics platforms to drive more equitable health outcomes.
  • Developing data-informed, strategic collaboration to address social determinants in communities.
  • Employing scorecards and data to drive equity, diversity and inclusion.

Conference registration gives participants electronic access to all sessions for three months. Register today.

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