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Through Member collaboration, MCRA helps drive performance improvements, deliver exceptional service, transform care, and champion the health and wellbeing of the communities we collectively serve.

Empowering Health Equity: Unlocking Potential Through Wider Circle’s Community-Centric Approach and NCQA Accreditation Alignment

View the original post on Wider Circle's website

Attaining health equity, where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to achieve optimal health, is a crucial goal, however our current reality demands deliberate attention to equity within healthcare delivery. Any approach taken needs to involve addressing societal challenges rooted in historical injustices, contemporary barriers, and the socio-economic factors contributing to preventable health disparities.

Empowering Health Equity: Unlocking Potential Through Wider Circle's Community-Centric Approach and NCQA Accreditation Alignment

Apart from the ethical obligation, there are compelling reasons to prioritize an equitable approach in developing and deploying health products. The ramifications of inequitable strategies extend to population health and economics, evidenced by disadvantaged communities grappling with heightened rates of preventable diseases, diminished life expectancy, and subsequently inflated healthcare expenses. These disparities not only impact individuals but also strain the broader healthcare system, leading to cost burdens passed on to various industry stakeholders. Beyond healthcare expenses, the societal toll encompasses reduced productivity and increased strain on publicly funded services.


What is the NCQA Health Equity Accreditation?

Recently, the Biden administration launched an equity agenda to ‘allocate resources to address the historic failure to invest sufficiently, justly, and equally in underserved communities, as well as individuals from those communities.” Given the increased focus here, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) developed and published their Health Equity Accreditation program to support organizations with this initiative.


The Health Equity Accreditation focuses on equipping organizations with the foundations of health equity work:

  • Building an internal culture that supports the organization’s external health equity work.

  • Collecting data that helps the organization create and offer language services and provider networks mindful of individuals’ cultural and linguistic needs; and

  • Identifying opportunities to reduce health inequities and improve care.

  • The follow up program, Health Equity Accreditation Plus, takes this one step further and is for organizations more advanced on their health equity journey. It focuses on:

  • Collecting data on community social risk factors and patients’ social needs, to help the organization offer social resources that can have the most impact; establishing mutually beneficial partnerships that support community-based organizations; building meaningful opportunities for patient and consumer engagement; and

  • Identifying opportunities to improve social need referral processes and the partnerships that make them possible.

What does Wider Circle do to support organizations’ health equity accreditation?

Wider Circle has long had a strong and deliberate health equity focus. They are a community health organization that comes to members’ neighborhoods, building trust to engage in places plans and providers can’t reach. Wider Circle is an extension of health plans that acts upstream to address social determinants of health (SDOH), improves outcomes, and lowers the cost of care. They create neighborhood networks of members who influence and support one another through data-driven approaches to group members together, helping them maximize their benefits and community resources to live happier, healthier lives. They marry the neighborhood networks with their team of culturally competent community engagement liaisons, hired from the communities they serve, and a network of local community based organizations (CBO’s) who they partner with to address, refer, and close care gaps and SDoH needs. Wider Circle specifically targets key populations of focus that have suffered historic health inequities and have published research on our results. Wider Circle is well positioned to help across the 5 core health equity domains that NCQA has codified.


Collection, acquisition, and analysis of community and individual data

Wider Circle maintains a comprehensive list of CBOs with detailed operational insights.  Collaborating with plan partners who curate verified CBO listings, they augment these resources to meet the unique needs of our members. Their approach involves gathering comprehensive social risk data at scale through systematic surveys on SDOH administered to members. These surveys cover aspects such as personal finances, food, housing, transport, personal safety, and employment status. By combining this information with claims data, they segment and target high-risk populations within vulnerable communities, addressing individual member needs. Wider Circle utilizes their network of CBOs and member advocates to proactively engage at the community level, striving for advocacy and positive change.


Cross-sector partnerships and engagement

Wider Circle partners with plans and local CBOs to tackle the needs of members. Where there are gaps, they fill them with local staff and community ambassadors (community members with lived and relevant experience who volunteer to help). They exclusively use partners that they have independently evaluated, and their community engagement staff are from the local communities they serve with shared lived experience. Whenever a need is identified they don’t just ensure it is noted, but that action is taken and the loop is closed. With any partner they are collaborating with, clear outcome metrics, roles and responsibilities, and data exchange protocols are agreed upon and documented. Wider Circle sees this as a collaboration as the partner may often have hyperlocal knowledge that will enhance the value of their services. They help improve the overall rating through bringing the plan to members in the community and ensuring their services reach them in the areas they need, tackling the “unable to reach” through building trust with community-based approaches.


Data management and interoperability

Wider Circle has clear protocols around member data, who has access, security settings, and communication and integration of this data into existing systems, with appropriate training for all their staff and compliant electronic device security. They are HiTRUST certified, and any health equity initiatives operationalized through Wider Circle will continue to follow these processes.


Program to mitigate social risks and address social needs

Any partnership with a plan or provider Wider Circle enters into has a well defined project plan with agreed upon scope, documentation, governance, and a commitment and approach throughout that respects diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI stakeholders are part of the initial contracting and subsequent implementation process. Annual goals are documented, tracked, and regularly reported and reviewed by partners and their executive sponsorship teams.


Throughout the program, Wider Circle engages meaningfully with stakeholders through three avenues. Firstly their community engagement liaisons, who are hired from the communities they serve and have hyperlocal cultural competence. Secondly, their member ambassadors, who are former members who have volunteered to help run Wider Circle events and collaborate with their staff and act as an additional conduit to provide feedback on events and member needs where they might otherwise not hear them. Finally, in addition to regularly surveying members, Wider Circle can meaningfully evaluate the impact on goals through best-in-class scientific studies, the methodology of which has been independently verified by a leading actuarial organization, Milliman.


Referral outcomes and impact

Plans will refer members to the services they need, and the referral process should be efficient and tracked. Wider Circle acts as an extension of this to elevate plan performance in this area directly into the community. They have clear, documented, and repeatable processes to get members what they need. They do this in collaboration with the member, getting their consent, documenting it, and managing their expectations. Once Wider Circle has done this, they ensure the referral event took place and close the loop, again documenting it with their community engagement portal. They can analyze the status of referrals by member demographics to ensure they are not introducing inequities through their approach. While they don’t directly evaluate quality of referrals, they do capture disparities and work to address them on a member and community basis. These germinate organically with members as they create their own preferred networks and this data is shared by members with other members, creating an internal evaluation loop.


In conclusion, Wider Circle believes their mission and services are strongly aligned to the NCQA Health Equity Accreditation and the overall equity agenda, and can act as a complement to many organizations’ health equity goals.


 

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