Why Community Health Centers Are Leveraging Data Collection to Advance Health Equity

Following the Biden administration proclamation During National Health Centers Week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $90 million to 1,400 Health Resources and Services Administration Community Health Centers. This funding aims to advance equitable healthcare practices by enabling better data collection and reporting.

This decision aligns with many other post-pandemic initiatives. All facets of the healthcare landscape are focused on improving access to quality and equitable care due to gaps exposed by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

Nor is it surprising that this funding specifically identifies the importance of data collection and reporting. Private sector and federal, state and local government experts are investing heavily in IT modernization to improve data management. It has become clear that better data collection, management and analysis will be key to providing a healthier future for patients across the country.

Building trust through understanding

Federally Licensed Health Centers are community-based, patient-led organizations that provide affordable medical, dental and behavioral health services to more than 30 million patients each year, including one in three living in poverty and one in five rural residents.

These health centers have played a pivotal role in the country’s COVID-19 response, mitigation and recovery efforts, demonstrating the importance of community engagement in delivering reliable healthcare services to the poorest populations. more at risk.

The funding made available to these health centers supports a data modernization effort to better identify and respond to the specific needs of patients and communities through improved data quality.

It is widely accepted that an equitable future for healthcare starts at the local level, and while collecting actionable data is essential, some qualitative aspects of care can only be understood with human interaction.

With the availability of more accurate and robust information, local programs can tailor their efforts to improve patient outcomes and advance health equity – achieving the highest level of health for all, where everyone has a fair and equitable chance of achieving optimal health.

Health centers excel in reaching out to their communities to adapt quickly and leverage existing networks, relationships and knowledge to respond to crises in effective and innovative ways. This is exactly why the government has entrusted national and local health centers with the funding to meet the needs of their patients, now and in the future.

Recognize the social drivers of health

In addition to enabling health centers to collect better data on patient health status, recent HHS funding is designed to accumulate and analyze data on the social determinants, or drivers, of health (SDoH).

As defined by the World Health Organization, SDoH includes socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood/social and physical environment, nutrition and food security, access to health care, digital access and more.

Recognizing and understanding the SDoH will be key to achieving health equity, and collecting comprehensive data is an essential first step to accurately identify the impact of these factors on the health of certain populations. Without accurate data, substantial changes to health policy will not be based on empirical evidence and are therefore unlikely to be effective.

Through partnerships and assistance with organizations that recognize the role SDoH plays in equitable healthcare, local healthcare centers can harness the power of data to alleviate inequities and create meaningful improvements in health. and well-being of the communities they serve.

Empower change through modernization

It is paramount that industry partners work with national and local healthcare organizations to improve lives and communities by closing the technology gap to make IT an enabler of equitable healthcare, not a impediment to operations.

IT can help provide a more equitable public health system through frequent and accurate data collection, data sharing, and improved digital infrastructure capacity.

By collecting accurate data and analyzing the results of this information, local health centers can identify the needs of these communities, deploy the necessary resources where they are needed most, and analyze the results to better inform the care of these communities. .

With healthcare data management, these services and tasks can be updated in real time, providing accurate information to patients and providers.

When all the details are kept up to date, organizations can move toward additional healthcare innovations, develop patient-provider relationships, and strengthen the services available to people with medical needs. These innovations have the potential to unlock dramatic improvements in the large-scale healthcare landscape, such as automation, predictive modeling, and self-service portals.

Conclusion

Each year, National Health Centers Week raises awareness of the mission of federally licensed health centers and honors their accomplishments. While this is an opportunity to recognize the admirable and essential work of the heroic staff who keep these organizations running, it is also important to applaud efforts to advance health equity through data modernization.

With newly available resources and investment in data management, health centers can help bring a fairer future to underserved and vulnerable communities across the country.

Kamala Green is the Social Drivers of Health Program Manager for National Government Services at Elevance Health.

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