Better Data Collection Essential to Understanding and Addressing Health Inequities
December 14th, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the weaknesses of the U.S. health care system and highlighted long-standing inequities for minority communities. Highlighted during this period was the profound impact of economic stability, education, social and community life, one’s neighborhood and access to high-quality health care—social determinants of health—on the overall health and well-being of communities.
As a result, addressing health inequities has become a top priority for many employers, purchasers and health care providers. The ability to effectively collect a range of data points about patients and the care they receive is an essential component to creating meaningful change and ensuring populations achieve their full health potential.
Looking at health quality data by race, ethnicity, language and other patient characteristics, is crucial for understanding how long-standing systems of privilege and oppression impact the health of minority populations and communities. However, patient self-reported race, ethnicity and language (REaL) data across health insurance markets is widely variable and overall limited. While race and ethnicity data in California’s Medicaid program (called Medi-Cal) is broadly available likely because of legislation requiring health plans to collect this information starting in 2009, corresponding data for the majority of patients who receive health benefits through the commercial market – via employers or on the private market –is low or absent.
These limitations of known race and ethnicity data hinder the ability to see where disparities exist and for the health system to react with meaningful interventions. For health plans and large employers and purchasers, who provide health benefits for more than half the U.S., it is crucial to uncover variation in the access to care and the quality and experience of care being provided.
With better self-reported patient demographic information, employers, purchasers, payers and providers can tie this data to health care access, quality, patient experience and outcomes to illuminate exactly where disparities exist. These insights can enable tailored interventions and support for improvement.
How to Improve Data Collection
Legislation, Policy and Regulation
Legislation and regulations can incentivize or require health plans, providers and other health system organizations to increase the collection and quality of self-reported demographic data. Legislation and statute also have the potential to enforce standardization for data fields and definitions, which enables largescale purchasers of health care to align with their health plan and provider industry partners and enhance their ability to share, aggregate or disaggregate data to identify trends and implement plans for improvement.
It is crucial to ensure that national and state standards do not contradict each other.
Contracting and Business Relationships
Contracting requirements and incentives as part of large-scale public and private purchaser and payer programs can increase the collection, reporting and use of REaL data and thereby bolster efforts to mitigate disparities. Large purchasers could add incentive payouts if plans are able to stratify measures across self-reported REaL data. Health plans, provider organizations and other payers that contract within the health system can use incentive payouts for better data collection and stratification and other efforts to reduce disparities. Another approach is to build tiered networks that point patients to providers who have proven to be stronger at collecting, reporting and using REaL data.
It is important for purchasers and payers to avoid siloed initiatives that conflict with each other.
Organizational Leadership, Systems Structure and Culture
Organizations that pay for services at the point of care (e.g., health plans and independent physician associations, or IPAs) have the potential to increase REaL data collection, reporting and use by assessing and enhancing data collection opportunities, sharing data internally and creating a culture that values the collection of this information. This starts with organizational leadership. It is important to normalize data collection into regular workflows to improve the quality and ensure the most accurate information possible.
Purchasers, health plans and provider organizations can increase patient self-reporting by increasing awareness of how the data will be used and educating enrollment counselors and other staff with direct patient interaction on why it is important to collect this data.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has required plans to report their percentage of self-reported REaL data for certain key measures, with a goal of 80% self-reported data. Additional accrediting organizations, purchasers and others could adopt similar certification requirements to support reporting and stratification for the same measures and self-reported data goals as NCQA. This would increase the consequences for not aligning and support the overall goal of greater availability of self-reported REaL data.
Read more in our latest issue brief.
California Providers and Health Plans Sign Agreement to Expand Investment and Increase Access to Advanced Primary Care
July 26th, 2022
Coalition of Large California Payers Commit to Accelerating Widespread Adoption of Advanced Primary Care with The Goal of Reducing Costs and Improving Quality and Equity
As part of a new multi-stakeholder initiative, six health care organizations serving California have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to increase investment in and access to ‘advanced primary care,’ a model that emphasizes comprehensive, person-focused care, integration of behavioral and physical health services and high-quality outcomes. The agreement outlines a new initiative that strengthens the primary care delivery system throughout the state by enabling primary care practices to transform to a high-performing, value-based care model that reduces costs and improves quality and equity.
Known as the California Advanced Primary Care Initiative, the effort is jointly led by California Quality Collaborative (CQC), a program of the nonprofit coalition Purchaser Business Group on Health (PBGH), and the Integrated Healthcare Association (IHA). CQC and IHA convened the state’s largest payers to collectively adopt a model to transform primary care statewide.
The six organizations committed to the California Advanced Primary Care Initiative include Aetna, Aledade, Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Oscar and UnitedHealthcare. The initiative is a first-of-its kind agreement that represents a voluntary joint effort among payers to standardize the way they finance, support and measure the delivery of Advanced Primary Care.
“This initiative builds upon a long history of stakeholder collaboration to improve the care and health of Californians and moves us from vision to action with aligned priorities to scale high-quality primary care throughout the state,” says Crystal Eubanks, senior director of CQC.
“This initiative reflects our understanding that the impact of any one payer alone is limited,” says Peter Long, executive vice president of Strategy and Health Solutions at Blue Shield of California. “That’s why Blue Shield is committed to partnering with our peer payers and providers to scale delivery of high-quality primary care across the state. Ultimately, we know this is what is best for our members, and we all must work together to make this vision a reality.”
California Advanced Primary Care Initiative stakeholders committed to pursuing the following goals in the MOU:
- Transparency: Report primary care investment and adoption of value-based payment models that support the delivery of advanced primary care and performance on the advanced primary care measure set jointly developed by CQC and IHA, a list of metrics that enable purchasers, health plans and providers to identify primary care practices in a given market that are delivering the best results for patients.
- Payment: Adopt an agreed upon value-based payment model for primary care providers that offers flexibility, supports team-based care delivery and incentivizes the right care at the right time.
- Investment: Collaboratively set increased primary care investment quantitative goals without increasing the total cost of care.
- Practice Transformation: Provide technical assistance to primary care practices to implement clinical and business models for success in value-based payment models, integration of behavioral health and reduction of disparities.
“Primary care is the heart of all health care,” says Jeff Hermosillo, California Market President, Aetna. “This innovative initiative will help ensure accessible, affordable and high-quality primary care to improve the well-being of all Californians. Working together with our peers, providers, plan sponsors and members, we are committed to primary care that makes a difference in people’s lives.”
“Health Net is proud to be part of this groundbreaking collaboration that will support physicians in providing high-quality, coordinated care for millions of Californians. As a practicing primary care doctor, I am especially heartened by the opportunity to better integrate behavioral and physical health, a key strategy for effectively addressing our behavioral health crisis.” says Todd May, M.D., vice president, medical director of Health Net’s commercial business.
CQC and IHA have been collaborating since 2019 to develop shared standards of advanced primary care, including common definitions of practice attributes, a performance measure set, methods to identify quality at the practice level and a value-based primary care payment model.
“I am so inspired to see payers collaborating together in a new way toward this timely, crucial cause that will elevate primary care and improve patient lives in California,” says Dolores Yanagihara, vice president of Strategic Initiatives at IHA.
Strengthening Primary Care: A Pilot with Four Large Purchasers
June 10th, 2022
Extensive research and pilot programs have shown that easily accessible, person-centered and team-based primary care that integrates behavioral health and other supports can significantly improve patient outcomes and experience. It can also increase population health, reduce overall costs and serve to improve equity in our health care system.
It is for these reasons that PBGH’s California Quality Collaborative (CQC) has been working for over a decade to improve primary care. That work has culminated in the development of shared attributes and measures that enable purchasers, health plans and providers to identify primary care practices in a given market that are delivering the kind of care research tells us will bring about the best results for patients.
Together with the Integrated Healthcare Association (IHA), PBGH brought together four large health care purchasers in California to pilot this set of performance measures that emphasize patient experience and outcomes. The PBGH/IHA partnership, known as the Advanced Primary Care Measurement Pilot, began in January 2022, and participating purchasers include Covered California, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), eBay and San Francisco Health Services System.
Partnering to Better Primary Care in California
Our already weak primary care system has been further hampered by the pandemic, and these purchasers recognize that the time to strengthen it is now. The four participating purchasers have aligned by incorporating the same Advanced Primary Care attributes and measures into their health plan contracts. The goal is to identify the primary care practices throughout the state performing at the highest levels and delivering high-quality patient care.
The set of performance measures being tested through the pilot reflect the shared standard of Advanced Primary Care as defined through a multi-stakeholder process led by PBGH’s California Quality Collaborative that included input from purchasers, health plans, providers and patients.
The outcome will be an increase in understanding of where patients are getting the highest quality primary care. The pilot will give purchasers and health plans information to help them make decisions about their provider networks, resource distribution and consumer incentives. This information can be used to better connect patients to practices delivering Advanced Primary Care and incentivize improvement for other providers, increasing the availability of Advanced Primary Care.
How the Pilot Works: Existing Data for a New Purpose
Data already available through IHA is being used, so health plans and providers do not have to report anything new. The existing data will be used for a new purpose – to assess individual practices.
Performance information can be diluted when data from multiple practices is combined. By looking at each individual practice separately, we can gain the best understanding of which practices are delivering the best primary care and which ones need improvement.
The data will also be aggregated across purchasers and health plans for the first time to provide a more complete view of each individual practice’s performance, rather than looking at small segments of patients in a vacuum. This will allow for a better assessment of whether a practice has the systems in place to consistently provide high-quality care for everyone
Currently, ways to account for socio-economic and demographic differences in the performance analysis is being explored. This lens is crucial to ensure decisions made around the pilot promote equity and do not inadvertently increase the challenges vulnerable communities already experience in accessing high-quality care.
The analysis will include data from January through December 2022, and results and findings are expected mid-2023.