CMS' 'Equity Plan' to address data accessibility, SNF care in second year

The plan will use Affinity Groups to tackle disparities in nursing home care, CMS says
The plan will use Affinity Groups to tackle disparities in nursing home care, CMS says

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is ramping up efforts to improve nursing home care and make existing healthcare data more accessible as its plan to reduce healthcare disparities enters its second year.

In a report released Wednesday, CMS reviewed the progress achieved in the first year of its “Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare,” which was released last fall. The plan breaks down equity issues in the Medicare program into six priority areas, including expanding on standardized data and increasing the healthcare workforce's ability to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

Highlights of the plan's first year included the creation of a compendium of best practices for collecting data of patients who face disparities, testing innovation projects to address disparities and the release of the agency's Mapping Medicare Disparities tool, CMS said.

The plan's second year will take the “next steps” to “increase focus on health care quality, including care coordination, effective treatment, and patient safety,” the report reads.

One of those next steps will be developing resources to encourage providers to collect more accurate healthcare data, as well as ways to make existing healthcare data more accessible and to view data through a “health equity lens.” The agency also plans to utilize affinity groups — partnerships that bring together stakeholders with a “passion for a particular topic” — to tackle issues including nursing home care quality and population health.

In a blog post published Wednesday, Cara James, Ph.D., director of the Office of Minority Health at CMS, said the agency is working to ensure that its initiatives on equity are “sustainable” and “can be embedded” across existing programs.

“While we have reached a number of milestones this year, we know that there is still much work to be done to achieve health equity,” James wrote.

Click here to read CMS' full Equity Plan progress report.