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Leveraging People, Policies, and Practices to Achieve Quality Care

CyraCom recently partnered with the Institute For Diversity in Health Management, sponsoring the IFD’s symposium on diversifying hospital leadership. The symposium served as a kickoff to the Association for Community Health Improvement (ACHI)’s 2015 National Conference and, while there, I was able to attend a forum entitled Igniting Change: Leveraging People, Policies, and Practices to Achieve Quality Care for All, presented by Maryland’s Adventist Health Care. As Language Services and LEP Communication play a vital role in achieving this goal, I found the contents of this presentation thought-provoking and worth sharing here.

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Change is hard, but it’s worth it.

That was the message presented by Marcos Pesquera, RPh, and Marilyn Lynk, PhD, from Adventist Health Care’s Center for Health Equity & Wellness. In their speech, they pointed out that the diversity of patients walking through the doors of this nation’s hospitals increases every year, and  health organizations must adapt in order to provide excellent care to every patient.

Pesquera opened with an anecdote about a recent hospital visit of his own. The nurse who provided his care apparently picked up immediately that Pesquera was a man who appreciated humor, and proceeded to pepper the rest of their interaction with jokes (“I’m so excited, this is my first day,” and “I’m actually a patient at the psych ward upstairs – I just escape periodically and play nurse”), to Pesquera’s delight. His point was that every patient is different, and that adapting to those differences is essential to take care from good to great.

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Lynk led a discussion on population health and health equity. She defined population health as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” She expanded upon the topic by focusing on five areas:

  • Focusing on the community
  • Increasing access to care
  • Shifting focus from sick care to wellness
  • Reducing disparities
  • Addressing social determinants

The key to taking on these issues, Lynk noted, is in building knowledge and capacity. Adventist has done this through data collection and reporting, by partnering with the Brookings Institute to take data on patient care and outcomes and break it down by race, ethnicity, age, language, and gender.

They have also sought to build cultural competency within its hospitals by creating web-based training modules, as well as classroom coursed designed to familiarize staff with the cultures of their community. Adventist also created its own Cultural Competence Organizational Assessment, enabling them to test its own employees, as well as other interested organizations, to ensure they have the knowledge they need.

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Lynk acknowledged that many organizations hesitate to seek out the information which would indicate disparities, or that change is needed, out of caution. Digging for this information, she pointed out, carries with it the risk that you might discover your organization has a problem. And once you discover it, you incur the obligation to try to set it right.

Still, Lynk says, addressing these issues head-on and creating real improvement through organizational change has made her hospital system, Adventist Health Care, a thought leader on population health in Maryland, leading to a better quality of care.

By tackling the issues of population health and a diverse patient population head-on, Adventist has become a force for good in their community, and in the state of Maryland as a whole. This has served to increased patient satisfaction, better staff morale, and better health outcomes among minority patients seen in Adventist hospitals.

The Center for Health Equity & Wellness serves as a model to other facilities nationwide of what can happen when the healthcare challenges presented by a diverse patient population are placed front and center and, ultimately, overcome to achieve excellence.

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