Replay: Permanente Live – The future of equitable care



Physician leaders examine lessons learned from pandemic about health equity

The challenges of achieving health equity are not new to health systems, but the pandemic has exacerbated the issue as COVID-19 disproportionately affected communities of color across the United States, physician leaders said during a September 22 Permanente Live webinar.

“In health care, we have this history of unethical medical experimentation, which has manifested as medical distrust,” said Karthik Sivashanker, MD, vice president of equitable health systems and innovation at the American Medical Association. With this history of mistrust, people shouldn’t be surprised at the disparities on display during the pandemic, he said. “COVID-19 has just been a magnifying glass to inequities that had been there all the time.”

Access to care and later to vaccines has been mixed, with significant care gaps still apparent among Black, Indigenous, and Latino individuals, the panelists said. They discussed these gaps and the tangible solutions health organizations need to innovate to achieve quality health care for all.

The structural issues that allow organizations to unknowingly preserve health disparities need to be addressed with a strong systematic approach and commitment, the panelists said. And more organizations are focusing on change; a recent study found that more health care organizations are identifying health equity as a top priority.

COVID-19 has just been a magnifying glass to inequities that had been there all the time.

– Karthik Sivashanker, MD, American Medical Association

“The goal is to develop a systematic approach to identify, track, and close care gaps,” said Nancy Gin, MD, executive vice president and chief quality officer for The Permanente Federation, the national consulting organization for the 8 Permanente Medical Groups that provide care to more than 12.5 million Kaiser Permanente members.

Dr. Gin said Kaiser Permanente has incorporated health equity in its organizational goals and is assessing how data is collected to accurately reflect care delivery among various vulnerable populations. “We’re starting by focusing on three key clinical areas: mental health and wellness, cancer care, and cardiovascular health,” she said.

Kedar Mate, MD, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said: “Organizations that make equity a strategic priority for themselves and back that strategic priority up by real investments in data assets and informatics to understand the scope of the challenging problem … that’s when we’ll see real movement in that area.”

“The time now is for real action,” Dr. Mate added.

Other panelists included Nkem Chukwumerije, MD, MPH, FACP, president and executive medical director of The Southeast Permanente Medical Group; and Stephen Parodi, MD, executive vice president of External Affairs, Communications, and Brand for the Federation, who served as moderator.

View the full replay of the webinar above.