Healthcare News & Insights

6 keys for providing top-quality care to disadvantaged patients

It’s become the norm for hospitals to be judged on their performance with meeting quality benchmarks for various patient conditions. Some organizations are trying to make this burden easier on facilities – but it still won’t come without its challenges, especially for disadvantaged patients. 

ThinkstockPhotos-504459918The latest quality measures in the pipeline are endorsed by the National Qualify Forum, a Congressional nonprofit tasked with improving standards for health care.

According to an article from U.S. News & World Report, along with being evaluated for their Medicare readmission rates, hospitals will also soon be judged based on their performance treating heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.

But critics of these new measures say that, just like readmissions, factors beyond a facility’s control often affect patients’ recovery from these conditions – particularly those who receive both Medicare and Medicaid, along with other disadvantaged patients.

And once their performance in these areas starts hurting their bottom lines, facilities will struggle even more to care for patients.

It’ll be particularly tough for facilities that offer more high-intensity services, such as burn centers and trauma centers. These patients are already more prone to contracting illnesses that may negatively affect their outcomes during an episode of care. And that, combined with any underlying socioeconomic issues patients are facing, could put these facilities at a big disadvantage.

How hospitals can respond

While it can be difficult to meet the mark with quality measures when patients are affected by multiple socioeconomic problems, facilities can find some helpful guidance in a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

As described in a news release, the report lays out several steps facilities can follow to boost outcomes in patients who are most at risk for complications after a hospital stay, including those who don’t have high health literacy or who come from a low socioeconomic background.

Here are six ways that high-performing hospitals provide top-quality care to even the most disadvantaged patients:

  1. They have a strong commitment to health equity. Outstanding hospitals make health equity a priority and part of their culture, and they hold themselves accountable for their results. They make it a goal to provide the best care to patients, regardless of their backgrounds.
  2. They use data and measurement to create and evaluate programs. Facilities that collect concrete data about their patient mix, such as information about patients’ health risk factors and general health, have an easier time with administering care. This data can be used to gauge whether their protocols are working – and what can be done to fix problems.
  3. They perform a comprehensive needs assessment for each patient. It’s important to identify and respond to patients’ needs of all kinds, including making sure patients understand their plans of care and have the resources at their disposal to recover after their hospital stay (e.g., access to nutritious food and a primary care physician for follow-up appointments).
  4. They form collaborative partnerships. Hospitals must work closely with community organizations that can provide patients with social services, such as food banks and centers that focus on areas like substance abuse rehabilitation and mental health counseling.
  5. They work toward care continuity. Because improving outcomes across the continuum of care has become a big priority for the feds, hospitals need to make sure patients are taking full advantage of the resources available to them once they’ve been discharged – and that their recovery is free of complications.
  6. They engage patients in their own health care. For any of these initiatives to be effective, patients must be active partners in their own heath care. Clinicians must encourage them to take control of their health by providing them with the tools to do so. The best way to start: Be sure all health-related information is explained to patients in terms they understand, and that they feel comfortable asking questions and discussing care options with providers.

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