New report finds disparities in health care a continuing problem in Washington state

Analyses based on race, ethnicity and language of patients finds variation in the care individuals receive.

Sep 17, 2015, 12:46 ET from Washington Health Alliance

SEATTLE, Sept. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Washington Health Alliance released today a new report revealing disparities in how health care is delivered across race, ethnicity and language. Findings reveal that disparities in care are a continuing problem in Washington state. The report, the third of its kind that the Alliance has released, relies upon Medicaid data covering more than 680,000 enrollees.

"While care should be tailored to the needs of each individual patient, each patient should have equal access to the right care," said Nancy Giunto, executive director of the Washington Health Alliance. "Our data shows that we have a ways to go before we achieve true equity in how health care is delivered in our state. We hope the findings will provide a call to action that will lead to effective quality improvement efforts to improve the health of all the people in our state."

Among the report's findings:

  • Rates for colon cancer screenings are lower across racial/ethnic groups, ranging from 37 to 44 percent. That means that fewer than half of patients 51-58 years of age are receiving a recommended screening for the second leading cause of cancer in the state.
  • Children between 2-19 years old have the lowest rates of accessing care, compared to other age groups. In fact, among Medicaid enrollees, children average between 12 to 20 percentage points worse than adults 45 years old and older.

The findings show Washington state is improving in a few areas. For example, there are improved rates over time for blood sugar testing for patients with diabetes. For patients with diabetes, regular testing of blood sugar is an important way to help manage the disease and to avoid further complications. In November, the Alliance will be releasing a special report with Qualis Health, one of the nation's leading population healthcare consulting organizations, which will take a deeper look at how diabetes care is delivered to both Medicaid and Medicare enrollees in Washington state. The report will also address how providers and communities serving both these populations can better target improvement efforts for diabetic patients.

The Alliance report urges health care organizations to not delay in addressing disparities in care. "The sooner health care organizations successfully address disparities in care, the better they will be positioned in the rapidly changing landscape of population health management and shifting demographics," the report notes.

The report is available for downloading at http://wahealthalliance.org/wp-content/uploads.php?link-year=2015&link-month=09&link=2015-disparities-in-care.pdf.  

About the Washington Health Alliance

As a purchaser-led, multi-stakeholder collaborative with more than 185 participants, the Washington Health Alliance is committed to leading health system change in Washington state. The Alliance has the bold vision that physicians, other providers and hospitals in the region will achieve the top 10 percent in performance nationally in the delivery of quality, evidence-based care and in the reduction of unwarranted variation, resulting in a significant reduction in medical cost trends. To achieve this goal, it will require the aligned efforts of those who give, get and pay for health care. A cornerstone of the Alliance's work is the Community Checkup, a report to the public comparing the performance of clinics and hospitals for important measures of quality care (www.wacommunitycheckup.org).

Media Contact: 
John Gallagher 
Washington Health Alliance 
206.454.2957
jgallagher@wahealthalliance.org

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SOURCE Washington Health Alliance