Mass Gen, Rush + 6 other execs on making health equity a top priority

Executives at eight hospitals and health systems told Becker's that health equity is a top priority at their organization. Here is what they said their hospital is doing to make healthcare more equitable and what they're most excited to see:

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

Eric Dickson, MD. President and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care (Worcester): I think that [a top priority for 2021 and 2022 is] the rise of a renewed focus on health equity will go a long way to heal some of the racial tension that exists in the country, and proving that we're making sure that everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, gets the same high-quality care in this country and in our healthcare system.

And I think if we do that, it sends a message to our diverse employees that this is important to us and they're not going to be marginalized by their employer because of the way that we take care of our patients. I think that's going to be incredibly important.

Janet Hadar, MSN. President of UNC Health (Chapel Hill, N.C.): The momentum around addressing health inequities is pretty exciting. UNC Health has intensified its efforts to provide health in a more equitable way. We're leveraging many of the relationships we made with community and faith organizations to overcome some of these gaps, and we're getting into communities that historically have been underserved. I believe community partnerships have been the most effective tools toward health equity, working with community leaders and organizations that individuals trust.

Barbara Griffith, MD. President and CEO of Woman's Hospital (Baton Rouge, La.): Attention to social determinants of health is long overdue, especially in Louisiana where we, unfortunately, tend to be on the bottom of national health rankings. We are looking at all of our patient outcomes through the lens of health equity and understanding the true drivers of health in our community. This work is the pathway to true change.

David Ansell, MD. Senior Vice President for Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center (Chicago): We went into homeless shelters and began to test people for COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, we discovered, before the CDC, that it was being asymptomatically spread, and we created a respite center for homeless people with COVID, which is still running a year-plus after it opened in April 2020. The respite center has since taken care of more than 700 homeless patients who would otherwise have been spreading COVID-19 on the streets or in homeless shelters.

Delvecchio Finley. CEO of Atrium Health Navicent (Macon, Ga.): [If I could eliminate any healthcare crisis] I think that the biggest one is equity. Equitable access to great care. At the end of the day, in a country as fortunate as ours is in terms of resources, the disproportionate distribution of those resources, the structural sort of things that we've done over time have led to furthering inequitable access to people being able to lead healthy lives. If healthcare could be a further driver and contributor to equity, then I think we would be in a much better place overall.

Paul Ramsey, MD. CEO of UW Medicine (Seattle): We must continue to make progress with healthcare equity, and we are committed to being an anti-racist institution. That's difficult work. We're working to identify policies, procedures and systems that have been in place for many years. I do think the post-pandemic time will be a very exciting time for changes in research. There will be changes in the practice of healthcare that will enable us to do it with a more value-based approach.

Harsha Upadhyay. Regional CEO of Prime Healthcare Region 3 (Alabama, Georgia and Texas): I am excited to see more and more Asian Americans taking prominent roles in healthcare and healthcare delivery systems, slowly evolving from their traditional roles as physicians in an individual setting to taking on a more active role as system CEOs and healthcare administrators, making a larger impact and slowly changing the landscape of how care is delivered. The move from healthcare equality to healthcare equity is an exciting one!

Peter Slavin, MD. CEO of Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston): I'm pleased with the impact that the [MGH Disparities Solutions] Center has had on our performance as an organization. And it's also educated a lot of other organizations about how to go about doing this. Having said that, we still have a long, long way to go.

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