By Pete Davis
The South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) – like many state, regional and metropolitan hospital associations across the U.S. – is engaged in a number of efforts to encourage support for AHA’s #123forEquity Pledge to Eliminate Health Care Disparities. Those efforts so far have led to more than 60% of its member organizations - 40 out of 64 hospitals - signing the pledge.
Nationwide, nearly 1,000 hospitals and health systems have signed the pledge since it began last July.
“There is no question that AHA making this a national priority has helped us make it a priority,” said Thornton Kirby, SCHA president and CEO.
SCHA, the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina and other organizations have launched a statewide Call to Action for Health Equity. The call to action, which is aligned with the AHA’s #123forEquity campaign, focuses on changing the way organizations see their role in helping diverse populations make healthy choices, access health and social services, and enjoy a healthier physical and social environment.
SCHA has been providing their member hospitals with resources and counsel on efforts they are implementing to address health care disparities, as well as sharing best practices across the state.
“We are never going to be the state we want in terms of health outcomes unless we eliminate health care disparities,” said Kirby.
Partnerships building momentum. Partnerships with the state and metropolitan hospital associations are a key part of the strategy to increase the number of hospitals and health systems participating in the #123forEquity pledge, said Tomás León, president and CEO of the AHA-affiliated Institute for Diversity in Health Management (IFD). IFD is leading many of the efforts on the pledge campaign.
“The creative solutions that are coming out at the state level are really helping us build momentum for the campaign and capacity for the long-term,” said León. Thirty-eight state, regional and metropolitan hospital associations so far have pledged their support for the pledge.
The AHA’s #123forEquity pledge seeks to build on and accelerate the efforts of the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Disparities – an effort started by the AHA and other national partner organizations in 2011.
The pledge campaign urges hospital and health system leaders to pledge to take action in the next 12 months to implement strategies to increase the collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data; increase cultural competency training; and increase diversity in leadership and governance. It also asks hospital leaders to provide updates on their organization’s progress, and share their success in promoting diversity and health equity with the public.
A focus on readmissions in S.C. At the SCHA annual meeting earlier this year, each acute care hospital received a report with its readmissions data stratified by race and the racial disparity gap.
“We also showed them what it would do to their overall readmissions rate if they reduced that disparity,” SCHA’s Kirby said.
One of the hospitals that received the report was Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville. The health system has spent significant time and resources on ways to prevent readmissions, and its results are impressive. Bon Secours St. Francis is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for heart failure readmissions and No 2. in overall readmissions.
“While we are considered a high-performer in this area, we are not satisfied with those results,” said Saria Saccocio, M.D., the health system’s chief medical officer. She said the overall readmissions rate is higher for black patients than white patients, so the health system “is exploring a number of diverse initiatives” to address the differences.
Signing the pledge shows leadership in community. While the number of organizations that have pledged support for the #123forEquity campaign is impressive, the AHA encourages hospitals and health systems who have not taken the pledge to consider signing it.
“I would advise everyone to please take the pledge,” said Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of Tidelands Health in Georgetown, and a member of the AHA Board of Trustees. “I think it sets a great example to your community and to the people you serve.”
Bailey believes that taking the #123forEquity pledge will help Tidelands Health get a better understanding of all its patients and support their efforts so they can “provide a much better patient experience for everyone we serve.”