New CMS report highlights need to improve health equity data

Continuing the development of equity scores, including refining the Health Equity Summary Score, is just one of the ways CMS aims to improve data and thereby advance a fairer health system, a new report from the organization's Office of Minority Health outlines.

The report, entitled "The Path Forward: Improving Data to Advance Health Equity Solutions," says that, while much progress has been made, inconsistent or incomplete data collection approaches in the past have hamstrung attempts to more closely define and quantify health equity metrics. 

The move toward more robust quantification of such health equity data mirrors that of recent attempts by U.S. News & World Report to increasingly include such data in its popular hospital rankings, possibly incentivizing hospitals and health systems to prioritize health equity.

Developed for Medicare Advantage plans, the Health Equity Summary Score summarizes the quality of care delivered to patients with specific race, ethnicity, dual-eligibility and low-income status characteristics, the CMS report says. CMS is now developing a dashboard for both Medicare Advantage organizations and others to make it easier to translate the score into action and find resources as a result.

CMS is also considering adapting other tools to address possible limitations with the score, such as a Health Equity Report Card that can act as a precursor to the summary score. The report card summarizes actions made in patient encounters according to four separate data points, including social determinants of health.

CMS also recognized that, while working with healthcare partners and other organizations is crucial, there are difficulties in how such partners want to focus on equity data. For example, some want to work with race, ethnicity and dual-eligibility data while others also want to expand this list to factors such as sexual orientation, language preference and health literacy.

"CMS has a pivotal role to play across every health care setting in every community, and we are committed to working with partners, organizations across the industry, and the populations we serve to shape the future of health equity data," the report concludes.

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