Planning, Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating Programs: Reducing Health Disparities through Quality Improvement

The Disparities Solutions Center is collaborating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) through a contract with NORC at the University of Chicago on a five-year initiative to design, implement, and evaluate a portfolio of quality improvement programs to reduce health disparities. The initial phase of this work involved developing the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare, the first plan of its kind to address health equity in Medicare. The plan is aimed at reducing disparities for Medicare beneficiaries known to experience lower quality care, including racial and ethnic minorities, patients with limited English proficiency, sexual and gender minorities, and people with disabilities. The priority areas outlined in the report will guide CMS OMH in supporting Quality Improvement Networks and Quality Improvement Organizations; Hospital Engagement Networks; federal, state, and local government agencies; health care providers; policy makers; and Medicare beneficiaries, among others, to achieve health equity.

The DSC was one of several sub-contractors working with CMS OMH and NORC to produce the report, with input from a broad range of stakeholders and experts in the field of health disparities nationally. Partners in this work include The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health, the Delmarva Foundation, KPMG, TMNcorp, Dewey Square Group, and the National Council of Urban Indian Health.

The plan and was publicly released on September 8th, 2015 at the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid and the 30th anniversary of the Heckler Report in Baltimore, MD and is available here.

Guide to Preventing Readmissions among Racially & Ethnically Diverse Medicare Beneficiaries

Picture1This Guide was developed as part of the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare and is designed to assist hospital leaders and stakeholders focused on quality, safety, and care redesign, as well as QIN-QIOs and HENs to identify root causes and solutions for preventing avoidable readmissions among racially and ethnically diverse Medicare beneficiaries.  The Guide was prepared for the CMS Office of Minority Health by the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago.

Racial and ethnic minority populations are more likely than their white counterparts to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge for certain chronic conditions. Social, cultural, and linguistic barriers contribute to higher rates of readmissions in these populations. This guide offers new, action-oriented guidance for addressing avoidable readmissions in this population by providing:

  • An overview of key issues related to readmissions for racially and ethnically diverse Medicare beneficiaries
  • A set of activities that can help hospital leaders take action to address readmissions in this population
  • Concrete case examples of strategies and initiatives aimed at reducing readmissions in diverse populations

Case study 3 in the Guide features the Health Connections Initiative, a model of care implemented by Catholic Health Initiatives with a focus on reducing avoidable readmissions in vulnerable populations. To learn more about this initiative, view the 2015 annual report video by clicking here.

The Compendium of Resources for Standardized Demographic and Language Data Collection


CMS OMH has released a new resource designed to help organizations collect standardized race, ethnicity, and language (REaL) and disability data. The Compendium of Resources for Standardized Demographic and Language Data Collection (Data Collection Compendium) provides users a one-stop shop to identify the latest federal data collection standards in addition to tools to help users and their organization collect standardized REaL and disability data.

Comprehensive patient data on race, ethnicity, language, and disability status is key to identifying disparities in quality of care and targeting quality improvement interventions to achieve equity.

The Data Collection Compendium features:

  • Descriptions and links to 36 REaL data collection resources including federal standards, 15 reports, 6 guides, 3 toolkits, 2 trainings, and 10 sentinel articles
  • Descriptions and links to federal standards and 4 disability data collection resources

To download the Data Collection Compendium, visit https:/

The Data Collection Compendium was prepared with The Disparities Solutions Center-Massachusetts General Hospital and NORC at the University of Chicago as part of the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare.