New Report Aims to Help Healthcare Sector Address Inequalities in Access to Specialty Care

Poor access to timely, quality specialty care causes thousands of preventable deaths each year,particularly among low-income, minority and rural populations who are fighting diseases such ascancers, cardiovascular diseases and HIV/AIDS. Studies suggest that eliminating racial disparities incancer care alone would result in 250,000 fewer cancer deaths annually and result in $2.3 billion indirect health care savings from earlier diagnosis and treatment initiation for serious diseases andreduced emergency room usage and post-treatment readmission.

A joint report from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and FSG seeks to change the poor access tospecialty care by providing the health care sector with a guide to address the inequity challenge andcapitalize on the opportunity to address the “triple aim” of health care improvement by tackling access,quality, and cost simultaneously.

“Now is the time to address inequity in specialty care,” says Lauren Smith, M.D., a Managing Director atFSG. “The implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the shift from fee-for- service to value-basedpayment systems, growing collaboration between payers, providers, and community partners and thebroader national dialogue around equity and social justice together create a strong foundation tointroduce efforts aimed at improving health equity as standard components of care delivery.”

The series includes a brief on each of three critical levers to improve equity in specialty care:

The series includes perspectives from those on the front lines of improving equity in specialty care. Forexample, Dr. Heidi Behforouz of Brigham &Women’s Hospital, who shares a key insight from ProjectPact: “We found that community health workers helped us reach patients who were failing in thetraditional model, that we reduced hospital admissions from this population by 60 to 70% in 2 years.”

The series also includes insights from some of the newest innovations in the field, like those fromProject ECHO’s Erika Harding: “Project ECHO is a multiplier for the amazing work that hospitals anddoctors already do and are mandated to do. And while our doctors do Project ECHO to have greaterimpact, it does have a cost-saving element.”

Other case studies include Kaiser Permanente’s language access program, HealthPartners “Partners forBetter Health Goals” Initiative, United Health Group’s Health Equity Service Program, Cedars-Sinai HeartInstitute’s community outreach approach, Cancer Support Community’s distress screening protocol, theCancer Care Equity Program at Dana Farber, and over 20 others.

As a follow-up to the report, FSG and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation will be partnering to developa series of case studies based on the work of the Foundation’s grantees to improve equity in specialtycare. Organizations receiving grant support from the Foundation to date include: Ralph Lauren Centerfor Cancer Care, Association of Community Cancer Centers, Maine Medical Center, Washington AIDSPartnership, Farmworker Justice, and Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The report was developed as a core part of the Bristol-Myer Squibb Foundation’s new Specialty Care forVulnerable Populations Initiative. Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation President John Damonti notes: “Thisreport is critical to put a spotlight on the issue of health equity – not just on the persistent challengesthat prevent too many people from receiving recommended specialty care, but also to highlight thesolutions that everyone can and should implement to improve health and save lives.”