3 Highlights From the BCBS Health Equity Data Roadmap

The payer association has published its thought leadership on health equity data collection, standardization, and patient ethics.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) has released a data-focused health equity action plan. Created by the BCBS Association and its family of companies, The Ethical and Transparent Use of Data to Reduce Health Disparities challenges healthcare stakeholders to adopt the plan while aligning to national standards. The plan makes specific recommendations related to the following three areas.

1. Growing health equity data collection.

To shrink health equity data gaps, BCBS emphasizes the need for more self-reported patient data to promote greater volume, quality, and consistency. The Blues collaboration calls for more granular and regularly updated information on race, ethnicity, and language (REL) as well as social needs, sexual orientation, and gender identity (SOGI).

2. Following national standards.

BCBS recommends standardization in not only in how data is collected but how REL and SOGI questions are presented and across the technology systems that gather and analyze this data. BCBS companies are working with their partners to make interoperability a key component of health equity strategy, noting the individual efforts of Anthem, Regence, Florida Blue, and BCBS of Michigan.

BCBS and other stakeholders are also working with initiatives such as the Gravity Project, “a national public collaborative that develops consensus-based data standards to improve how we use and share information on social determinants of health (SDOH).”

3. Making collection ethical and transparent.

Noting that patients are often hesitant to report REL and SOGI information, BCBS stresses that healthcare stakeholders must clearly communicate how the data will be used while safeguarding it and ensuring patients have access.

The BCBS action plan seeks to address divergent aspects of health equity: individual and population health. “Every data point is a person with a story,” said Sean Robbins, BCBSA external affairs EVP, via company press release. Robbins added that BCBSA and BCBS companies are “eager to work with policymakers and colleagues across the industry to develop and adopt common industry data standards in pursuit of our shared goal to build a more equitable health care system.”

In the press release, BCBSA SVP of market solutions Kari Hedges stressed: “To make a meaningful difference, we need the full force of the industry.”

The BCBS announcement—part of the Blues Association’s National Health Equity Strategy—mirrors a growing trend of industry collaboratives such as Civica Rx and the digital health-focused Graphite Health. These collaboratives seek the kind of programmatic improvements in the commercial market that CMS has sought for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Laura Beerman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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