Policy Implications: Healthcare

Research Implications

Future research should address how the healthcare system can combat racial disparities in and outside a hospital’s walls. Studying how institutional, cultural, and implicit racism shape quality and access to care in the US is vital to understanding how policy, institutions, and individuals continue to perpetuate health inequities. This line of work can also facilitate the interventions and policy changes needed to address such inequities in health. For instance, further research is necessary to understand how patient-provider racial concordance translates into health outcomes and quality of care. Moreover, a knowledge gap remains regarding how the healthcare system can tailor interventions to address social risks. Future research should focus on comparing the effectiveness of social needs interventions and understanding the supports and incentives needed for the diffusion of social interventions across the health care system.

Policy Implications

The health care system and federal and state governments can intervene via policy and institutional change to promote health equity. Within the health care system, leaders can combat health inequities by adopting initiatives that address social adversity, creating and reinforcing medical school pipeline programs for students of color, and instituting training requirements for physicians to address implicit bias.
  1. With recent changes to risk-based payment models, the healthcare system now has the incentive to address social risks within the healthcare setting by directly improving patients’ social circumstances and investing in community strategies to improve the local community’s health.
  2. It is vital to create and strengthen medical school pipeline programs to address the physician shortage and train future medical leaders from underrepresented backgrounds. This will ensure that individuals from underserved communities can become healthcare providers and provide linguistically and culturally competent care. Students from medically underserved areas can help fill the gap of physicians in their communities.
  3. Medical institutions can train practicing physicians and their staff on implicit bias to confront prejudices.
  4. The Internal Revenue Service should ensure that non-profit hospitals address community health needs to meet their tax-exempt status.
Upstream changes to federal and state-level policies can also promote health equity. For instance, the federal government should prioritize equitable health insurance coverage for immigrants and all low-income individuals.