How a diverse workforce drives value-based care: Q&A with Mass General's first equity & inclusion chief

On May 15, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston named Joseph Betancourt, MD, its first chief equity and inclusion officer. Here, he discusses his key responsibilities in the newly created role as well as how he plans to improve inclusion in the hospital's workforce as well as in its patient population.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Question: What are your key responsibilities as chief equity and inclusion officer?

Dr. Joseph Betancourt: At MGH, we aim to have diverse talent across the organization, performing and excelling in a supportive environment, trained to deliver equitable high-quality care to — and conduct research in partnership with — a diverse community that feels valued and respected. In my new position, I will aim to provide leadership, partnership and guidance so MGH can develop innovative strategies to measurably:

• Identify and address disparities and achieve equity in our quality of care.
• Recruit, retain, promote and support diverse talent across the organization, at all levels.
• Diversify researchers, research participants and our research agenda.
• Diversify our patient population and further strengthen our community engagement.
• Train all caregivers to effectively communicate and care for diverse populations, and work effectively and respectfully in teams.
• Create a welcoming, respectful environment for all, including patients and staff.

Q: What excites you most in your new role?

JB: The importance of improving quality and achieving equity is at an all-time high, and we are at a tipping point where healthcare leaders clearly understand that we can't deliver on our promise of value, high performance and high reliability in the presence of disparities in healthcare.

To be successful, we must ensure we have a healthcare workforce that represents various lived experiences and perspectives, and that feels respected. We must also have a system of care that supports the needs of all patients and walks the talk by measuring performance and acting when gaps are identified. This is the work I will lead, and it is exciting because we at MGH want to be a leader in everything we do, including in these important areas.

Q: What are some key initiatives you plan to roll out as chief equity and inclusion officer?

JB: We will develop a portfolio of activities that aims to better recruit, retain, promote and support a healthcare workforce, including nurses, doctors, researchers and staff, that is diverse in all ways. We will do the same for our patient population and for our research participants. We will also expand our caregiver training activities to better incorporate those that improve cross-cultural communication and our ability to mitigate stereotypes that impact clinical decision-making and team cohesion.

We will continue to build on our already strong quality reporting system that helps us identify and address disparities. Finally, in these challenging times, we will focus on building an organizational culture that assures our care teams and patients feel valued, respected and engaged.

Q: What is your advice for healthcare organizations looking to enhance their diversity efforts?

JB: The work that I've described above is as important as quality and safety, and as such it should be treated with that same level of rigor and accountability. Issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to value and high performance and should be supported by the creation of leadership oversight, resources and the appropriate structures that assure success. This will include being deliberate, setting targets, demonstrating transparency and holding our leaders and organizations accountable for executing at a high-level and achieving outcomes. Leaving this work to chance is not enough and excelling in these areas will separate high-performing healthcare organizations from their peers in the years to come. This is what we strongly believe at MGH.

 

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