SCAN Group, parent company of SCAN Health Plan, is going all-in on promoting diversity among its patient population and staff. The company has created a new executive position to focus on those issues, tapping Timshel Tarbet as its new vice president of business excellence and diversity strategy.
Diversity and equitable access to care has been a priority for SCAN Health Plan CEO Sachin Jain, M.D. since he took the helm of the organization in July. The company has spent several months examining performance metrics and demographic information for its members and staff, looking for opportunities to improve and analyzing how diversity issues impact their business.
“We as a company — and we as an industry — have to acknowledge that we can do better in terms of how we serve a diverse population. One’s culture, one’s identity, one’s preferences, and one’s race very significantly influences their experience of health care and how they consume it,” Jain told Hospice News. “By not acknowledging that diversity, and not building specialized approaches to addressing different populations, we’re missing out on opportunities to better serve diverse populations.”
As it began to explore the issue, SCAN found that while their performance on Medicare quality metrics was high in comparison to the industry at large, rates varied based on patient demographics. Results related to medication adherence, for example, were several percentage points higher among patients who self-identified as Caucasian than among the company’s African American and Latino members. SCAN will be launching initiatives to close those gaps during 2021, Jain said.
The company also identified a differential in trust for the organization between Caucasian employees and staff who are African American. Identifying the root causes of these disparities and taking corrective action will also be a priority in 2021, as will stepping up data collection on member demographics to better guide business decisions.
In the new vice president role, Tarbet will be instrumental in these efforts.
“As each of us experiences our health care journey, it’s very personal to each of us. It’s very much influenced by our culture, our interactions, and our family,” Tarbet said. “We can figure out ways to increase the population that we’re taking care of and do it in ways that really support them in the ways they need to be supported. If we are not able to effectively meet people there, it creates room for poorer health outcomes.”
Tarbet comes to SCAN from Portland-based Cambia Health Solutions where she served as director of ethics and corporate accountability. At Cambia, she spearheaded a number of initiatives to foster diversity. Much of her professional history was in the human resources field, including working as a human resources generalist in the U.S. Air Force, in which she was a staff sergeant.
Addressing demographic disparities is a critical challenge for hospice providers as well. About 82% of hospice patients in 2018 were white, compared to 8.2% for African Americans and 6.7% for Hispanics, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. All other racial or ethnic demographics totaled 3.1%.
These percentages represent a vast number of patients and families who are not receiving patient-centered, interdisciplinary care at the end of life, as well as untapped markets for providers.
Diversity is as much an economic issue as it is a moral concern. Minorities have seen the largest percentage gains in purchasing power since 2000, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. The combined buying power of African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans reached an estimated $2.4 trillion in 2018, while spending power among Hispanics in the United States hit $1.5 trillion.
“From a business perspective, being better at serving your customers ultimately is going to translate into growth, and that’s another key component for us,” Jain said. “This isn’t diversity, equity and inclusion for their own sake, this is about driving the excellence of our business measured in both our financial performance as well as clinical quality.”