The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2001 Crossing the Quality Chasm Report points to six areas where healthcare systems need to focus on to improve patient quality. These include providing patient-centered, safe, effective, timely, efficient, and equitable care. Equity is defined as delivering care that does not vary in quality based on a patient’s gender, race, ethnicity, or social and economic status. Such factors often track closely to healthcare disparities. In attempt to eliminate health disparities, the American Hospital Association launched the Equity of Care Initiative in 2015—a call to action asking that hospital and health systems across the United States begin taking action by signing the Equity of Care Pledge.

All MedStar Maryland hospitals signed the pledge in 2016, and multiple efforts are currently underway. The pledge asks hospitals to advance efforts to address health disparities in three domains:

  1. Governance and leadership diversity
  2. Patient data stratification by race, ethnicity and language
  3. Cultural competency training

Specific initiatives at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center include the collection of race, ethnicity and language preference data to support patient-centered culturally sensitive care. For example, a preferred language alert is displayed to all providers when accessing the patient’s health record. The hospital also offers discharge instructions in both Spanish and English, and has added the capabilities to offer Chinese and Russian discharge instructions in the Emergency Department.

2016 Report to the Community Infographic

The National Center for Cultural Competence provides six reasons health organizations should focus on cultural competency:

  1. To respond to current and projected demographic changes in the United States.
  2. To eliminate long-standing disparities in the health status of people of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
  3. To improve the quality of services and primary care outcomes.
  4. To meet legislative, regulatory and accreditation mandates.
  5. To gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
  6. To decrease the likelihood of liability/malpractice claims.

Examples of efforts at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center include increasing the diversity of hospital board members and management in recent years to be more reflective of the community at-large and cultural competency training for employees. MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital collects race and ethnicity preference data to provide culturally competent language line services and cultural competency training as a part of employee orientation.

“I believe in the Equity of Care Pledge and that our purpose is to serve our community by improving health for all and filling in the gaps to meet the community’s needs,” says MedStar Montgomery Medical Center President T.J. Senker.

If you would like to learn more about the Equity of Care Pledge, please visit the American Hospital Association – Equity of Care website.