Consumer Groups Call for Meaningful Use Program to Address Health Disparities

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By Alex Ruoff  


A coalition of consumer, patient, and labor groups released a plan Aug. 26 outlining how the “meaningful use” program could better address health disparities among minority groups and the poor.

The Consumer Partnership for eHealth (CPeH), a partnership of nearly 50 organizations, and the National Partnership for Women & Families, a patient advocacy group, released a joint Disparities Action Plan, a strategy for using health information technologies, such as electronic health records, and consumer technologies to identify and highlight race- and economic status-related health disparities.

The plan specifically aims to integrate more rigorous demographic reporting requirements and patient-oriented information tools into Stage 3 of the meaningful use program--set for final rulemaking in 2014, National Partnership President Debra L. Ness said in a release.


“We have a chance to leverage Stage 3 of the meaningful use program to make significant progress in addressing disparities. We must not squander this opportunity.”  



--National Partnership President Debra L. Ness

“We have a chance to leverage Stage 3 of the meaningful use program to make significant progress in addressing disparities,” she said. “We must not squander this opportunity.”

The 50-page Disparities Action Plan contains three sets of recommendations on data collection, literacy and communication, and care coordination and planning.


The plan recommends that health care providers and hospitals in Stage 3 of the meaningful use program be required to collect “more granular data” from patients than is currently required. This includes data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and occupation information, as well as information about physical, behavioral, and cognitive disabilities.

To improve communications between health care providers and poor and immigrant communities, the plan recommends requiring all patient-oriented information to be available in a variety of different languages and accessible to those with visual, hearing, and communications impairments.

Also, to improve communication, the plan recommends that EHRs used in Stage 3 of the meaningful use program be required to incorporate automatic links “translating medical jargon to contextual information accessible to patients.”

To support care coordination efforts that reduce health disparities, the plan recommends requiring care summaries--summations of a patient's health history--to record caregiver status and enable patients direct access to their own health information. The plan also calls for the collection of “patient experience data,” to give health care providers access to feedback from patients about the care they deliver.

The meaningful use program has issued more than $15.5 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to more than 400,000 hospitals and health care providers who have adopted electronic health records.

Kathy Ko Chin, president of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, a patient advocacy group, said in a release that the action plan “presents a great opportunity to improve quality of care, enhance patient participation and understanding, and reduce health disparities nationwide.”

The plan is at

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