News & Views

Impact Newsletter - November 2011

Building the Tools to Measure Disparities and Promote Equitable Care

The ability to measure health disparities in a population is the first, necessary step in reducing and eliminating them. For that reason, Kaiser Permanente is committed to continually improving our methods for collecting member demographic data on race, ethnicity, and language preference.

Thanks to innovative tools like our electronic health record, KP HealthConnect, and our Geographically Enriched Member Socio-demographics (GEMS) datamart, we now have a rich and increasingly granular collection of reported and imputed data on our members’ racial, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and socioeconomic characteristics. By linking that information with care quality and utilization data, we’re increasingly able to measure the scope of existing health disparities among our members, as well as improve our understanding of their causes and our progress in reducing them.

Since late 2009, we’ve been tracking 16 HEDIS effectiveness of care measures (in prevention and screening, cardiovascular care, and diabetes care) for six race/ethnicity categories, including African-American, Asian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaskan Native, multiracial, and white. On a quarterly basis we combine all this data into a comprehensive, systemwide measure for each racial/ethnic category on our quality and service dashboard, known as the “Big Q Dashboard,” as a way to keep our progress against disparities front and center for Kaiser Permanente leadership.

Through our Equitable Care Health Outcomes (ECHO) initiative, we’ve been using video ethnography and extensive interviewing to investigate the key drivers of disparities and to identify care interventions at the levels of patients, clinicians, and the health care system itself. At our West Los Angeles Center of Excellence in Culturally Competent Care for African-Americans – one of Kaiser Permanente’s nine Centers of Excellence – this work has focused on hypertension and diabetes.