Educating and Motivating the Community to Reduce Disparities

Methodist North Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee
    • September 29, 2010

Educate the community about disparities in care by fostering relationships with community groups to affect patient trust and compliance.

Organized an event with community leaders—focusing on those who hold influence in the local minority and non-minority populations—to engage them in efforts to reduce disparities in care.

An understanding of the health disparities affecting the African American and Hispanic patient populations, and a renewed commitment to work together to reduce them through education.

Methodist North Hospital
3960 New Covington Pike
Memphis, TN 38128
Ph: (901) 516-5200

From the Experts:
“At no time in U.S. history has the health status of minority populations equaled or even approximated that of whites. This is unacceptable for us. We understand that to lift the quality of care for everyone in our community, we must work together to combat assumptions and work towards solutions.”

Paula Jacobs, M.A., S.S.B.B.
Director of Quality Performance and Improvement, Methodist North Hospital

Methodist North Hospital is a 254-bed non-profit community hospital.

Clinical areas affected:

  • Emergency department
  • Admissions (inpatient and outpatient)

Staff involved:

  • Director of Quality
  • CEO
  • CMO
  • Patient Access Team
  • Information Systems Team
  • Physicians

It took less than a month to plan the event agenda and secure invitations. Efforts to educate the patient populations are ongoing.

Paula Jacobs, M.A., S.S.B.B.
Director of Quality Performance and Improvement, Methodist North Hospital
Ph: (901) 516-5702

Innovation implementation:
Like many urban areas in America, Memphis has a storied racial history filled with contention and division. Even today, there are rarely opportunities where the community comes together to discuss problems and work through solutions. Moreover, like many communities nationwide, there is a difference in care outcomes for minority patients who suffer from chronic disease.

Given this framework, the team at Methodist North Hospital knew to address an issue such as equity, particularly in health care, it would require a broader approach taken outside of the hospital.

The team decided to approach two local community organizations – Healthy Memphis Common Table (HMCT), an organization of more than 150 organizations working to improve health care, and the Congregational Health Network, a collaborative of religious leaders who educate and motivate their constituents on health-related issues.

Planning around an existing meeting of HMCT, the staff at Methodist North presented on the problem of health care disparities in Memphis to an audience of more than 100 people. They outlined the hospital’s plans to implement a program to collect data on patients’ race, ethnicity and preferred language (REL). Many in the audience reacted with concern over the questions about patients’ demographical information that would be asked at registration. Methodist North staff assured the audience that this is the only way to pinpoint disparities—citing existing evidence and data—and take the steps needed to develop targeted innovations.

The event helped reach a significant milestone: A call to action for everyone in the audience to educate their constituents about inequalities in care, the steps needed to reduce them, and the changes occurring at Methodist North to make health care more equitable.

Advice and lessons learned:

  1. Engage everyone in the community, not just those in the medical field. To have influence and increase creditability with patients, it is important to engage the people who patients see as their leaders and counselors. Members of the faith community are particularly suited for this.
  2. Position the initiative as a community-wide effort, not just the hospitals. Churches are opening their doors to let Methodist North staff conduct screenings and facilitate health seminars.
  3. Don’t get sidetracked by negative feedback. Be prepared to offer answers on why focusing on patient demographical information will lead to improved outcomes. Realize that this is a very sensitive subject for some.

Cost/benefit estimate:
For minimal staff time and no additional expenses, the team at the hospital believes that the event will ultimately lead to improve outcomes for minority patients who are more aware of REL issues in health care and are more trusting of their providers.