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Achieving NCQA Distinction: A Key to Multicultural Healthcare Equity

A patient in a wheelchair smiling with their provider

Over the last few years, the pandemic and associated challenges have highlighted just how prevalent health disparities are in the United States.

According to research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation early in 2022, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other ethnic groups fare worse than White patients when it comes to most measures of care. 

Marginalized groups are not just less likely to seek care, but they are also more likely to face inadequate diagnoses, hospital readmissions, and lacking aftercare. This may be related to health disparities due to various social determinants of care. However, factors like lack of language access are major stumbling blocks as well. 

To achieve health equity, care providers may choose to seek National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Distinction in Multicultural Health Care. Below is a closer look at the NCQA distinction and why healthcare facilities should pursue this distinction to address disparities. 

What Is the NCQA Distinction in Multicultural Health Care?

The NCQA is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of healthcare across the country. The NCQA uses evidence-based programs and standards to create a framework for providers to follow to achieve optimal care for patients. Accreditation from the NCQA is granted to healthcare providers and practices that align with the standards set forth by the organization.

The NCQA Distinction in Multicultural Health Care is granted to care providers and organizations that work to reduce health disparities by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS). This distinction is given only to those that excel with health equity and language access and lead the market in their respective areas of care. To award the distinction to a care provider or organization, the NCQA evaluates things like:

  • How the organization collects language, race, and ethnicity data 
  • Whether the provider offers language access services 
  • If the provider practices cultural responsiveness 
  • How the provider reduces health disparities 

Benefits of the NCQA Distinction in Multicultural Health Care 

Eliminate gaps in health equity 

As a provider works toward gaining distinction, they may be tasked with collecting data on more marginalized groups of patients to measure outcomes of care. This can reveal existing gaps that need to be addressed. The NCQA distinction not only helps organizations identify gaps in care but also reduces or even eliminates those disparities. For example, if a hospital organization finds that Asian patients are being readmitted more frequently than White patients, this may indicate there is a gap in care for Asian patients. By adopting the standards of care set forth by the NCQA, the organization can then make changes that ensure all groups of patients get the same level of care, effectively reducing gaps. 

Showcase industry best practices 

The standards set forth by the NCQA are considered the "gold standard" when it comes to closing gaps in care for diverse populations. These standards are specifically designed to ensure healthcare is more capable of catering to culturally diverse patients. Therefore, gaining distinction means that you have set clear policies and follow specific procedures with how your organization operates in terms of multicultural care. 

Stand out in your area of care 

When you obtain the distinction from the NCQA for multicultural healthcare, you set yourself apart as a care provider. This is no doubt valuable in the eyes of patients but can also position an organization as an influencing entity for other providers. Essentially, those who take the necessary steps to achieve cultural competence in healthcare stand out as exemplary providers. With NCQA distinction, providers become advocates for change in terms of how underrepresented groups are treated on a broader scale. 

Reduce healthcare costs 

Failing to address health disparities due to ethnic, racial, or cultural differences may result in adverse health outcomes for many patients. This, in turn, leads to higher healthcare spending and even added costs for the care providers. The average hospital readmission resulted in an average cost of over $15,000 for patients in 2018. Further, hospital readmission penalty rates imposed by Medicare exceeded half a billion dollars in 2017. These factors drive up the costs of care for every patient. By gaining the NCQA Distinction in Multicultural Health Care, providers are doing their part to reduce healthcare costs for everyone. 

Address Health Disparities in Your Healthcare Organization Today

A lot of steps go into gaining distinction from the NCQA, but the end result is well worth the effort for both healthcare providers and patients. Implementing language access with the help of a language services provider like GLOBO is a good place to start. Language support services address health disparities by ensuring all patients, including limited English proficient patients, can effectively communicate with care providers. This means a better standard of care, better patient safety, and reduced risks of readmission. Ready to learn more about language access? Reach out to request a language support demo today. 

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