How Do Integrated Health Care Systems Address Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Colon Cancer?

An elderly man waits in an examination room.

Executive Summary: This study’s investigation of colorectal cancer survival and disparities within a select system shows the integrated health system (IHS) approach to care is associated with higher levels of evidence-based medicine, improved survival, and reduced disparities.

The Issue:
The treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC) can be complex, requiring multidisciplinary care from a health care team that may be geographically separated. An integrated health care system (IHS) may impact CRC care quality, survival, and disparities.

Key Findings:

  • Of the study’s 348 hospitals and 33,593 patient records analyzed, about 13 percent were part of an IHS.
  • An IHS was associated with higher rates of evidence based care and lower five-year mortality.
  • Racial gaps in receipt of quality care were generally smaller within the IHS than outside.

Conclusion:
The IHS approach to care is associated with higher levels of evidence-based medicine, improved survival, and reduced disparities in CRC. This study’s novel investigation of cancer survival and disparities within a select system may be able to guide the development of health care reform’s emerging Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which aim to coordinate and integrate care.

About the Study:
This study was a retrospective, secondary data analysis using the California Cancer Registry linked to state discharge abstracts of patients treated for colon cancer between 2001 and 2006.