Newswise — Chicago – For the second time in three years, the American Hospital Association has chosen Rush University Medical Center an honoree for its annual Equity of Care Award, which recognizes hospitals and health systems for their efforts to reduce health care disparities and to advance diversity and inclusion. The association announced the award recipient and honorees on June 20 and will recognize them at its annual leadership summit, being held July 27 to 29 in San Diego, California.

“Rush has long served a very diverse patient population, including a large number of socioeconomically disadvantaged patients, and we are committed to providing the same welcoming environment and high level of care regardless of who our patients are or where they come from,” said Larry Goodman, MD, CEO of the Rush system and Rush University Medical Center. “We our proud that the AHA again has recognized our efforts, particularly our collaboration with community partners to reduce health inequities by assessing and addressing their circumstances outside the hospital.”

The American Hospital Association, of AHA for short, is a not-for-profit association of nearly 5,000 health care provider organizations nationwide. The AHA noted Rush University Medical Center for the following efforts to advance equity of care:

  • Making community health equity a strategic goal aligning business operations, population health efforts, diversity and inclusion and community engagement efforts to achieve equity. Rush has initiated an anchor mission initiative focused on hiring locally and creating career pathways, purchasing locally, impact investing locally and volunteering locally to create jobs and economic opportunities in the surrounding neighborhoods. 
  • Rush also has convened more than fifty community organizations – including other hospital systems, community health centers and community-based – organizations into a multi-sector, multi-partner initiative, called the West Side Total health Collaborative, whose aim is to improve life expectancy in high hardship neighborhoods around Rush. 
  • Implementing a strategic goal to increase diversity at the director level and above, and tying executive bonuses in 2015 to performance on this index. Rush experienced a 27 percent increase in underrepresented minority employees in leadership positions and a 7 percent increase in underrepresented students.
  • Collaborating with community partners to develop a social determinant of health screening tool, which includes questions for patients about housing, food security, utilities and access to care. Implemented in August of 2016, this tool includes referrals to formal partner agencies such as CommunityHealth – the largest free health clinic in Chicago, which provides affordable options to patients regardless of documentation status. Rush physicians and students both volunteer at CommunityHealth and provide care to patients, many who have been without access to affordable health care and medications.

The AHA previously named Rush a finalist for the 2015 Equity of Care award, in recognition of the following initiatives:

  • Use of technology, including a “disparities navigator,” to examine different health outcomes among patients and target interventions
  • A longstanding language interpreters program with a documented improvement in care
  • Pioneering work of Rush’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Task Force

The Medical Center’s commitment to equitable care also has earned it honors in the annual Healthcare Quality and Accountability study conducted by the health care services company Vizient (and previously by the University HealthSystem Consortium, now part of Vizient). In each of the 11 years that the study has been conducted, Rush attained a perfect score in the equity of care category, which means that the results of Rush patients’ care do not vary due to differences in patients’ gender, race or socioeconomic status.

In all, the AHA honored five health care providers this year. Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, was chosen as the recipient of the Equity of Care Award. In addition to Rush, Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Illinois; Cone Health in Greensboro, North Carolina; Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida were named as honorees.

“This year’s Equity of Care award winner and honorees offer powerful examples for the rest of the health care field on how to reduce health care disparities and foster diversity and inclusion within their leadership and staff,” said AHA president and CEO Rick Pollack. “Equitable care for all is a goal that hospitals and health systems should strive for each and every day, and these hospitals are helping to lead the way.”