At the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Oncology Policy Summit, prominent figures in the health care industry from diverse organizations emphasized a commitment to advancing health equity and addressing pressing social and health disparities.
A recent panel discussion at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Oncology Policy Summit moderated by Clifford Goodman, PhD, a consultant at Health Care Technology and Policy, included prominent figures in the health care industry from diverse organizations. The panelists emphasized their commitment to advancing health equity and addressing pressing social and health disparities.
The conversation shed light on the innovative strategies and concerted efforts being made to progress health care toward being more accessible and inclusive for all individuals, regardless of backgrounds or circumstances.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The managing director of Network Quality Innovation and Measurement at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Rose Baez, MSN, MBA, initiated the discussion by presenting the association's extensive reach, covering 100 million Americans through a federation of 33 independently operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies. She highlighted the association's dedication to health equity, underscored by the launch of its comprehensive health equity strategy in 2020.
“We've been doing a lot of work here and we actually have partnered with the National Minority Quality Forum in putting forward recommendations on the OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, there's a statistical policy directive 15, I believe, that is up for evolution,” she explained. “And we're putting recommendations forward to standardize the data collection associated with that.”
Bláz Bush, MEd, the executive director for the LGBTQ+ Health Program at Stanford Medicine, expressed the importance of inclusivity and affirming environments in health care. He detailed Stanford Medicine's collaborative efforts to create inclusive spaces and address health equity concerns for the LGBTQ+ community, which focuses on a patient-centric approach.
Bush also shared an example of the importance of policy. At Stanford Medicine, he advocated for using patients' chosen names instead of their legal names, especially for those undergoing gender affirming surgery, to aid in their comfort and avoid distress during their hospital stay.
Initially, legal names were considered a standard requirement for patient identification, but the speaker highlighted a policy update by the Joint Commission, allowing the use of other identification metrics, including chosen names, if properly documented.
“That was a huge win,” Bush said. “And it's allowed us to change the whole system, that if I didn't have that policy to point to, we would not have had that win.”
Additionally, he mentioned the importance of consistent data collection for sexual orientation and gender identity, emphasizing its necessity as a standard requirement rather than a mere recommendation.
Latinas Contra Cancer
The executive director at Latinas Contra Cancer, Darcie Green, shared the organization's mission to view cancer as a social, economic, and gender justice issue. She stressed the urgency of addressing the economic and social despair faced by many patients, particularly in the Latinx community.
“I'm here today because the clients who we serve—many of your patients, our clients, are in deep, deep despair, economic despair, social despair—are facing these inequities every single day,” Green said. “It's a very urgent matter for us as people struggle to provide for themselves and their families and then are diagnosed with cancer.”
Green also discussed the organization's efforts in providing crucial health education, patient navigation, advocacy, and support services to the underserved.
“We believe that there are some policy choices that we make that make this so, and that there are policy choices we can make that can change it,” she continued.
Juny Simpson, the head of health equity for customer engagement at Genentech, provided insights into the biopharmaceutical company's commitment to patient-centered approaches.
“At the heart of my work is early disease detection and education meant to activate all historically marginalized communities to seek care earlier and not in the most expensive point of care or with more disease burden,” she said.
Simpson spotlighted Genentech's dedication to delivering 3 to 5 times more benefit for patients at 15% less cost to society.
“Back in 2020, we actually changed our operating model to do what we call ‘bring health care local to ecosystems,’” she explained. “So, what that did was force these local teams—because we believe health equity is local, care is delivered local—to really examine the unique barriers for patients and then lock arms with stakeholders on the local level to solve for them.”
American Cancer Society
Robin Yabroff, PhD, MBA, the scientific vice president of health services research at the American Cancer Society, explained the society's multifaceted approach. This approach involves conducting research to improve access to care, affordability, and overall quality of care across the cancer control continuum. Yabroff stressed the importance of identifying policy levers to create a positive impact.
“A key component of all of our research is related to health equity, and we do a lot of work examining housing insecurity, food insecurity, transportation, barriers to care, and importantly, financial hardship and other sort of financial problems that patients can face receiving cancer care,” Yabroff said. “A lot of our research is really designed to identify practice and policy levers that can be used to improve the quality of care that patients receive.”
The shared insights from the nation’s health care leaders exhibit a collective commitment to health equity. These organizations, in their various capacities, recognize the necessity of health equity and aim to bridge gaps and eliminate disparities.
Goodman C. Policy solutions to address health-related social needs in healthcare settings. Presented at: The National Comprehensive Care Network Oncology Policy Summit; September 12, 2023; Washington, DC. Accessed September 12, 2023. https://web.cvent.com/event/5a5f0ae9-3ddc-4669-9385-4a329f9bee7b/websitePage:387fba1d-ece3-4ab2-99eb-d0d008530105