The Joint Commission issued a new advisory to encourage health care providers to take tangible steps to better understand and meet the needs of the diverse populations of which they serve. The Joint Commission recognized that COVID-19 has “shed a light on the many gaps in health care that diverse populations have experienced for decades.” In light of the “growing need —socially, politically, morally, and ethically — to address the health and well-being of diverse populations in communities” throughout the United States, the Joint Commission provided “four strategies and actions to help hospitals and medical centers support their communities”:

  1. Organizational leaders with decision making power should leverage policies and practices that “embrace anti-racism” in and outside the hospital. These policies should encourage intentional actions to “address[] adverse social determinants of health” and “nurture partnerships and professional pipelines” within the communities they serve.
  2. Hospitals should identify the needs of patient populations in their respective communities by utilizing a social intervention framework and “incorporate referrals to community resources and patient navigation (typically through a community health worker or patient navigator) in the social intervention framework” they use.
  3. Identify the needs of the hospital’s patient population and create a plan for community outreach that aligns with the organization’s “culture, mission, vision[,] and values.” The Joint Commission recommended also identifying local partners within the community to facilitate the execution of that community outreach plan.
  4. Hospitals should invest in their respective communities by hiring local persons into entry level positions and then providing advancement and professional development opportunities. By investing in this way, the Joint Commission believes this could “develop a pipeline for marginalized groups into health care professions” and “foster[] career advancement and professional development for all employees.”

Hospitals and academic medical centers can “make significant, meaningful advances in health equity promotion” and “ensure that surrounding communities are safe, vibrant, health, and stable” by incorporating those four action items. And the Joint Commission believes those institutions have a moral and economic obligation to do so.

Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates from the Joint Commission on the Health Law Pulse.