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Acad Med. 2012 Jun;87(6):687-8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182539d5d.

Commentary: getting real on addressing health care disparities and other systems problems.

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  • 1American Medical Association, 515 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60654, USA.


Physician membership organizations vary in the extent of their engagement in activities to address health disparities. Increasing engagement of those organizations not already highly active in this critical area is, thus, an opportunity. Studies that provide definitional contours of key issues, like disparities, are necessary and must be iteratively refined. However, parallel activities of intervention with measured outcomes to assess the effects of these interventions are necessary to truly address major problems in the health care system. To date, work in the problem definition category exceeds work toward intervention in and mitigation of these problems with measured outcomes. Many problems in health care, including disparities, are now sufficiently understood that it is time to shift focus toward bold intervention with measured outcomes. Optimal approaches that yield superior outcomes generally require collaboration across the provider-payer spectrum and the private sectors, including physicians, hospitals, insurers, etc. Stakeholders are now free to act in such coordinated fashion; it only requires social capital that permits cooperation and compromise. Interventions for problems such as health care disparities can be developed in the private sector and mirrored by government payers if physicians and organizations can get real about collaborating to implement outcomes-based initiatives to improve the health of all patients.

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