In the U.S., we are only as healthy as those with the least access to healthcare. Because of this, achieving health equity is a top concern for industry leaders. While there are no easy solutions for tackling disparities and ensuring all patients receive the highest level of care to meet their needs, those managing healthcare facilities must frequently confront these issues.
Re-envisioning healthcare operations and care delivery is necessary and will require forward-thinking leaders to forge the way. The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Healthcare Management program is committed to preparing students for the ever-changing landscape of equitable patient care. Graduates can serve as catalysts for change by implementing strategies to promote equitable care and advocating for policies that address the root causes of health disparities.
What Is the Impact of Health Disparities?
The impact of health disparities is significant and far-reaching, touching virtually every area of people’s lives. Individuals and families can be affected, as well as entire communities.
In general, health disparities can contribute to:
- Poor health outcomes, including higher disease rates leading to early disability and death
- Reduced quality of life from unmanaged or poorly managed health conditions, increased pain and discomfort and limitations on daily activities
- Higher healthcare costs when individuals delay preventive care or treatment and require an emergency room visit or hospitalization instead
How Can Healthcare Administrators Leverage Advocacy as a Catalyst for Change?
Implementing meaningful change in a system as complex as U.S. healthcare is challenging, but today’s healthcare administrators have more resources and tools to advocate for change. Advocacy involves actively supporting and promoting policies and initiatives to improve equitable healthcare access and quality.
Healthcare administrators play a vital role in this process and can drive change in several ways:
- Raising awareness. Despite the prevalence and impact of health inequities, awareness of the extent of the issue remains low. Administrators can use their positions to raise awareness about disparities or other critical concerns within their communities. These efforts may involve organizing community forums, educational sessions or public health campaigns.
- Influencing policy. Healthcare administrators can advocate for local, state and national policies that promote equitable healthcare and align with their organization’s mission. For example, many organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians and the College of American Pathologists, recognize the benefits of strengthening care access and have taken public stances urging lawmakers to expand Medicaid funding and enrollment.
- Data collection and reporting. Collecting data and tracking disparities, such as social determinants of health (SDOH), can help healthcare leaders identify groups needing more resources and attention. Transparent reporting of these measures can also contribute to conversations at the local and national levels and inform evidence-based interventions.
What Are Some Administrator Strategies to Guide Future Healthcare Policy?
Health equity advocacy comes in many forms, and administrators are still figuring out the best approaches. However, multiple health organizations are working toward SDOH improvements, such as ensuring marginalized and vulnerable groups have access to housing, food and education. Patients with reliable housing and nutritious food are likelier to experience better health and greater quality of life. Initiatives like the Healthy People 2030 Framework outline goals and screening tools health providers and institutions can use to identify and track the SDOH needs of patients.
In addition, administrators can address structural racism by advocating for diversity and inclusion in all areas of healthcare, including research and staffing. By fostering an environment and workforce that reflects the diversity of their communities, they are better positioned to offer culturally competent care and understand the needs and potential interventions to support a broader range of people.
By actively engaging in these advocacy strategies and working toward future policies prioritizing health equity, healthcare management leaders can significantly reduce health disparities and improve patient care for all U.S. citizens.
Learn more about the University of Illinois Springfield’s online MBA in Healthcare Management program.