Understanding Health Equity & Other Takeaways from HFMA’s 15th Annual Thought Leadership Retreat

December 23, 2022

The process of achieving health equity is a complex but necessary challenge hundreds of healthcare organizations across the nation are facing. Health equity is a moral imperative and a business priority that can be attainable with the right plan and people involved. During HFMA’s 15th Annual Thought Leadership Retreat, healthcare leaders got the chance to share their perspective on moving toward health equity and how they are making the shift.

Equity & Equality

Can you describe the difference between equity and equality? For many, it can be hard to put into words. The concepts of equity and equality are relevant in multiple areas of our lives, from healthcare resources to educational resources and beyond. For that reason, it is crucial we understand the difference between both and understand how we can play a role in our organizations working toward health equity.

Equality is the action we take to ensure everyone receives the same resources and opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, ensures everyone receives the same outcomes based on the actions we take. This means that through equality we are unable to achieve equity. Equity recognizes that due to racial or social status, some communities need more help than others to achieve the same outcomes.  

What is Health Equity?

Health equality provides equal care to everyone while health equity prioritizes treatment and care based on need. Health equity ensures that everyone achieves their full health potential without being disadvantaged due to their social position or other socially determined circumstances. Many organizations are employing health equity data analysis or looking at a cost effectiveness analysis and health equity to understand how health equity fits in with their organization’s strategic goals while driving their overall mission.

During HFMA’s 15th Annual Thought Leadership Retreat Strata’s Chief Financial Officer, Steve Lefar shared his perspective on how finance leaders can play an important role in achieving healthcare equity and how health equity data analysis and cost effectiveness analysis and health equity are linked.

“For finance leaders, you’re the source of economic truth for your organization, and your role in addressing health equity is critical. You can fund these kinds of programs by conducting different types of margin analysis. Start where you’re losing money on these populations, because you’re net better off investing in the community by doing that. Even in a fee-for service world, you can afford to do this, and finance can lead the charge in doing that analysis.”

HFMA’s 2022 Thought Leadership Retreat brought together leaders across the healthcare industry to discuss these concepts of health equity and necessary health equity analysis, and how using health equity data analysis can help organizations toward the goal of achieving health equity in the healthcare setting. The conversations that took place during this event highlight the momentum that exists within these organizations to improve health equity. HFMA’s report highlights 10 steps your organization can take to improve your healthcare organization’s health equity.

10 Steps Toward Health Equity

1. Define the stakes

Invest some time educating your staff on the differences between health equity and equality. Ensure everyone understands the role they play in achieving health equity and how they can continue fighting against health disparities across marginalized communities.

2. Work on your organization’s culture

Establish a culture of empathy where judgement does not take place. As a healthcare leader, you have the power to enforce an environment where diverse perspectives are empowered and accepted.

3. Set your strategy

Take steps to ensure your healthcare organization keeps health equity centered in your strategic planning. Be prepared for uncomfortable questions and concerns to arise while building a health equity strategy. These are all necessary steps in the process of moving toward health equity.

4. Asses your workforce

Having a diverse and educated workforce greatly supports health equity. Examine the     communities you are serving and make sure they are being represented within your   organization to establish a welcoming and safe environment.

5. Participate in new payment models

With many hospitals and health systems struggling to muster the resources needed for day-to-day operations, participating in payment models that can offer the needed funding to support health equity may seem all the more intimidating. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation is seeking to partner more extensively with Medicaid on innovative models that cover a wider variety of patient demographics.

6. Know what to measure

Organizations are making progress at capturing the caliber of data that can provide a roadmap to reducing disparities and improving health equity. Here is where health equity data analysis will become critical.

7. Take a holistic view

Disparities within healthcare often stem from social health determinants of health. Taking a holistic view allows you to understand not only what the problem is but also what is driving the problem.

8. Look to the community

Look at the community you serve and how other businesses and organizations can help you achieve health equity. Health equity is a form of large-scale teamwork that involves everyone in your community.

9. Make the business case

Forward thinking financial leadership is important because it will take time, money and people. Health equity ROI does not have to be part of your health equity initiatives. Instead, health equity will allow your organization to care better for your patients and get better outcomes in general.

10. Be innovative and agile

Don’t be afraid to fail! Having an environment where stakeholders can share ideas without fear of failure drives success. Organizations should be comfortable with change, since the environment is rapidly changing and plans to achieve health equity will constantly need to be adjusted accordingly.