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How NCQA's Health Equity Accreditation impacts health disparities

ncqa health equity accreditation

Multiple organizations have prioritized provider health equity requirements — from new CMS priorities in their Framework for Health Equity to accreditation standards from The Joint Commission. NCQA’s Health Equity Accreditation is one of its newest programs.

Introduced in 2021, HEA expands accreditation from payers to multiple stakeholders including medical practices and health systems. A second NCQA accreditation, Health Equity Accreditation Plus, takes practices further into the social drivers of health and community partnerships.

With so many existing demands, it’s natural for a medical practice to ask: Why should we pursue HEA or HEA+, and what are the benefits for our patients and practice? In this blog, we’ll cover three ways NCQA accreditation helps medical practices improve health equity and achieve full practice transformation under this new model of care.

How NCQA Health Equity Accreditation can reduce health disparities

1. Increase patient awareness

NCQA’s HEA standards help medical practices meet patients where they are. DataGen interprets these standards through five practice advancement strategies:

  1. Organizational readiness: An agile medical practice that seeks accreditation will become open (or ready” to identify and meet patient needs, quickly and more accurately.
  2. Patient characteristics: Practices must consistently collect more patient data in the areas of race, ethnicity and language; and sexual orientation and gender identity. Patients are more satisfied when they have a positive doctor-patient relationship and a doctor who understands their entire story, making them more likely to confide in them and follow recommended care that is tailored to their specific needs and preferences.
  3. Language resources: Meeting patients where they are means communicating in their preferred language. Resources can be internal or community-based, and they should aim to include verbal and written support. For example, a hospital with a large Chinese population can assess its resources and staffing and choose to hire more providers who speak Mandarin and make online interpretation services readily accessible in patient settings
  4. Practitioner network and cultural responsiveness: Patients are more likely to trust providers they can relate to. When medical practices publicize their provider and staff profiles, it can help patients commit to a provider and receive the preventive and chronic care they require.
  5. Quality improvement: By examining their practice’s general population and stratifying quality measures by diverse groups, practices can better identify and serve vulnerable populations.

2. Create personalized interventions

Personalized interventions require data at the individual and population health levels, stratified by condition, risk and patient characteristics. Improved data leads to more accurate assessments, more personalized interventions and enhanced follow-ups that prioritize health equity factors.

3. Support practice equity advancement and transformation

To advance health equity, practices must understand these three components:

  • their aim and mission;
  • the patients they serve; and
  • their data and quality.

Together, they create the quality-equity connection, requiring a practice to examine their outcomes and identify contributing factors. For instance, a patient with persistent uncontrolled HbA1c may live in a food desert and lack the transportation that would give them access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Using this example, you can see why it’s important to consider social drivers of health to improve patient outcomes.

Discover key patient insights with quality data

NCQA’s HEA and HEA+ send a strong signal: major healthcare institutions and medical practices are prioritizing equity and identifying resources to eliminate care gaps for optimal patient care and experiences.

If you’re interested in advancing methods to promote health equity in your institution or medical practice, DataGen has multiple years of experience partnering with for quality improvement and NCQA’s accreditation programs. We bring high-quality analytic tools and consulting services to achieve and maintain accreditation in HEA and HEA+.

For a free practice advancement consultation, contact DataGen today. Take the step toward better outcomes through a health equity-based model of care.

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