Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What’s the link between health disparities and patient safety?

Guest Blogger: Deliya Wesley, PhD, MPH, Program Manager, Health Services Research MedStar Health Research Institute

As the largest healthcare provider in the DC Metropolitan area, the MedStar system provides care to an incredibly diverse patient population, including some of the most underserved and underrepresented groups.  Across the country, we know that certain groups continue to experience differences in the type of care they receive, that some are less likely to receive routine medical procedures, and that others experience worse health outcomes overall.  These differences (also termed health disparities) are important to acknowledge in an effort to address and eliminate them. 

Why do these health disparities matter to us at MedStar as researchers and as providers?  Because we know that certain differences (including social inequities and differences in cultural attitudes) can impact patient safety.  Putting Patient First means truly understanding what the patient’s reality is, and understanding that the patient’s needs extend far beyond addressing the ailment that brought them to seek care in the first place.  It means understanding where the patient came from, how they think, how they view the world, and most importantly how they want to be related to when in our care.  In doing so, we take important steps towards providing care that is relevant to the patient regardless of factors such as their age, race, ethnicity, social status, literacy levels or the language they are most comfortable speaking.  This approach can improve how we relate and communicate with patients and their families, and help to improve the safety and the quality of care they receive.

At MedStar Health Research Institute, we continue to put patients first by striving to be inclusive and representative of our patient population in our research studies.  We have to recognize the differences in every patient that comes to us, whether they are on a research study, or seeking routine care.   Understanding these differences is a key piece in making sure they stay safe while with us, leave healthy, and remain healthy.
This past Monday’s ‘Good Catch’ covered this topic and serves as an excellent reminder for us all.  Check out this important message from MedStar Patient & Family Advisory Council for Quality and Safety member Dr. Knitasha Washington—it’s brief, and incredibly well said: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntwc5MtWmBo&feature=youtu.be

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