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CMS: Data-Driven Strategies Can Improve Population Health for Minorities

Data-driven strategies can reduce disparities in care access and improve population health for minorities, says CMS.

Data-driven strategies can improve population health for minorities

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- To improve population health and increase care access among minority patients, organizations should implement data-driven strategies and identify the unique challenges within specific communities, Cara V. James, PhD, Director of the Office of Minority Health at CMS said in a recent blog post.

Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the US, comprising 18 percent of the total population, James said. But individuals who identify as Hispanic can come from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“We want to take this opportunity to look at health and health outcomes of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America,” James wrote.  

“The first step to establish understanding is to have data informed strategy that allows us to increase understanding and awareness of the diversity within the Hispanic community and identify challenges they may face in accessing care that meets their needs.”

Hispanic Americans experience significant health disparities, James noted. Among Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries, more than 50 percent of those that identify as multi-ethnic rated their health as fair or poor, and nearly 40 percent of Cuban patients reported the same, indicating opportunities to improve quality of life for a large number of beneficiaries.

An April 2018 report from CMS also showed that Hispanic patients experience gaps in care access and chronic disease management. White patients were more likely to have received a flu shot than Hispanic patients, and white men with hypertension were seven percent more likely to have controlled blood pressure than their Hispanic counterparts.

To close care gaps among Hispanic populations, CMS plans to collect standardized patient language and demographic data to identify disparities, and then use these insights to develop targeted population health management interventions for beneficiaries.   

CMS is also working to help other entities develop their own data-driven strategies. The agency has created the Compendium of Resources for Standardized Demographic and Language Collection, a document that offers best practices,  staff training tools, and webinars to help health systems improve standardized data collection.

This resource builds on other CMS efforts to use data analytics and population health strategies to reduce care disparities. The Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) tool allows users to identify care gaps among beneficiaries in health outcomes, utilization, and spending. Stakeholders can use the tool to target specific populations for interventions, and understand racial and ethnic differences in health outcomes.

Additionally, organizations can access the tool to compare their performance to their county, state, or national average, and work to close any care gaps that may exist. CMS also recently added a Hospital View to the tool, allowing hospitals across the country to view their performance and improve disparities.

CMS’s data-driven strategy will also empower Hispanic patients by helping them make the best decisions for their mental healthcare, said James.

Research from CMS has shown that minority beneficiaries experience gaps in behavioral care, with these patients reporting worse mental health functioning than their white counterparts.

Hispanic beneficiaries in particular reported extremely high frequencies of depression, and significantly worse Mental Component Scores (MCS) compared to white patients.

CMS’s Roadmap to Behavioral Health: A Guide to Using Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Services provides Hispanic patients with information on mental and substance abuse disorder services, behavioral health providers, and instructions on how to follow up on care.

The resource educates beneficiaries about how to best use their coverage to improve their health, which will encourage patients to actively participate in closing gaps in mental healthcare.

With these new data-driven resources, CMS expects to improve physical and mental health outcomes for minority patients, and to help other organizations do the same.

“Putting patients first is at the center of what we do at CMS. This means working together with patients and providers to identify and address the unique challenges they face and help amplify solutions that will help them meet their needs,” James concluded.

“By using data to increase understanding of our nation’s diversity and applying that knowledge to the development and dissemination of solutions, we can implement sustainable actions to help Hispanic Americans improve their health and that of their families.”

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