By Kathryn Petrovic, MSN, RN, Director, Department of Standards and Survey Methods
Unfortunately, health care quality and patient outcomes are often far worse for people who fall into certain classifications, including racial/ethnic minorities, women, residents of rural communities, people who live with disabilities, poverty or lower educational attainment, and other historically marginalized groups.
Health care equity is one of the highest priorities at The Joint Commission. In fact, Joint Commission President and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, MSHA, MACP, FACMI, says it is our moral and ethical duty to ensure that equity is the foundation for all that we do. He emphasizes that without health care equity, safe, high-quality health care cannot and will not exist.
Addressing health care equity’s importance, The Joint Commission recently launched its Health Care Equity Resource Center to support health care organizations on their health equity journey. The resource center is designed to assist organizations as they prepare to meet The Joint Commission’s new and revised health care equity requirements, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
Health Care Equity Requirements
The new health care equity requirements are applicable to all ambulatory organizations that provide primary care within the “Medical Centers” service in the ambulatory health care program (they are not applicable to ambulatory organizations providing episodic care, dental services or surgical services).
The requirements recognize that health care organizations need established leaders, standardized structures and processes to properly detect and address health care disparities. They also are applicable to all critical access hospitals, hospitals and certain behavioral health care and human services (BHC) organizations.
Initial elements of performance (EPs) for the health care equity requirements include:
- designating a leader
- assessing health-related social needs
- stratifying quality and safety data
- creating an action plan
- evaluating the action plan’s effectiveness
- keeping stakeholders informed
Health Care Equity Resource Center
The Joint Commission’s newly created Health Care Equity Resource Center provides specifically chosen resources to aid organizations in meeting the new and revised health care equity requirements. The resource center meets health care organizations wherever they may be on their health equity journey and helps them find solutions to any current challenges. Resources provided include:
- Strategies: Links to resources such as toolkits, templates and guides
- Soundbites: Brief videos of organizations’ lessons learned
- Snapshots: Brief synopses of approaches used by organizations
- Evidence-based interventions
If a health care organization is currently in the health equity planning stage, it can utilize a resource that includes learning activities over a five-week period, a readiness assessment tool, and an example of a timeline and plan outline. Or, if an organization is further along on its health equity journey, it can use a toolkit that offers detailed instruction on screening data, setting targets and monitoring to identify where further improvement may be needed.
Currently, the Soundbites and Snapshots sections of the resource center feature useful information provided by University Health in Kansas City, Missouri. University Health describes how it used process mapping to visually depict workflows, which helped highlight process improvement opportunities.
We encourage ambulatory organizations to visit the new Health Care Equity Resource Center. This is just the beginning, and more resources and tools will be added in the coming months. We look forward to learning from health care organizations that are making advances, sharing their stories, and being partners with them on this journey. Together, we can and will create a more equitable health care system.
Kathryn Petrovic, MSN, RN, is the Director of the Department of Standards and Survey Methods in the Division of Health Care Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission. In this role, she oversees the development and revision of the standards for all accreditation and certification programs. Petrovic was previously a Field Director in the Department of Surveyor Management and Development and a Senior Associate Director in the Standards Interpretation Group at The Joint commission. Prior to joining The Joint Commission, Petrovic was a nurse leader at several health care organizations.