The National Health Plan Collaborative to Reduce Disparities and Improve Quality

Published In: Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, v. 34, no. 5, May 2008, p. 256-265

by Nicole Lurie, Allen Fremont, Stephen A. Somers, Kathryn L. Coltin, Andrea Gelzer, Rhonda Johnson, Wayne Rawlins, Grace Ting, Winston Wong, Donna Zimmerman

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BACKGROUND: Despite numerous reports and initiatives, progress in reducing racial/ethnic disparities in health care has been slow. The National Health Plan Collaborative (NHPC), a novel public-private partnership between nine health plans covering approximately 95 million lives, leading learning and research organizations, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was established in December 2004 to address these disparities. PROGRESS TO DATE: The health plans were able to overcame initial challenges in obtaining information on race/ethnicity of their enrollees and examined their diabetes performance measure to assess disparities in care. By February 2006, the initial nine plans that had joined the NHPC progressed from focusing solely on data collection and management issues and were engaged in outreach activities to members, providers, or community or had completed capacity development for disparities work. Five plans had implemented one or more pilot interventions. Plans also addressed unanticipated challenges, such as sorting through large amounts of data to target disparities. CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED: Because many of the plans are complex national entities with varying regional and departmental structures, simply achieving coordination of disparities activities across the organization has been a major challenge and, in many cases, a major breakthrough. CONCLUSIONS: The NHPC represents a model of shared learning and innovation through which health plans are tackling racial/ethnic disparities. Now that most of the plans have some data on their enrollees with diabetes and have begun targeting disparities, they want to capitalize on their collective industry strength to influence policy on issues related to disparities.

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