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Putting Patients First: Improving Health Outcomes for Hispanic Americans


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CMS Health Equity Blog

Putting Patients First: Improving Health Outcomes for Hispanic Americans

October 24, 2018

By: Cara V. James, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

As part of CMS’ ongoing efforts to put patients first and empower them to work with their providers so that they make health care decisions that are best for them and their families, we want to recognize the importance of understanding the challenges and recognizing the diversity within our communities. We want to take this opportunity to look at health and health outcomes of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The first step to establish understanding is to have data informed strategy that allows us to increase understanding and awareness of the diversity within the Hispanic community and identify challenges they may face in accessing care that meets their needs.

Hispanic Americans are the largest ethnic or racial minority group in the United States making up nearly 18% of the total population[1]. Within that 18%, we see the range of ancestral origin, 63% Mexican, 9.5% Puerto Rican, 4% Cuban, 4% Salvadoran, and 3% Dominican Republic represent the top 5 subpopulations among Hispanic Americans[2]. The importance of understanding this diversity becomes apparent when we see that variation in health outcomes among Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries, more than 50% of those that identify as multi-ethnic and Puerto Ricans rated their health as fair or poor while approximately 40% of those that identify as Cuban rated their health that way. Understanding the diversity also allows us to identify unique challenges and opportunities within each community.

Seizing on those challenges and opportunities, our data informed strategy also allows us to develop and disseminate solutions to help patients and providers make decisions that are right for them, while also working to improve overall health care quality. To assist organizations in developing their own data informed strategy, CMS has developed resources such as a Compendium of Resources for Standardized Demographic and Language Data Collection, to help them set up data collection efforts that will assist them in better understanding their patients, identifying disparities in quality of care, and targeting quality improvement intervention.

A data informed strategy also provides the opportunity to empower patients and improve their experience accessing and receiving care. To help patients in making decisions that are best for them, CMS has expanded the offering of From Coverage to Care resources. A Roadmap to Behavioral Health: A Guide to Using Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services, available in English and Spanish, focuses on behavioral health to offer important information about mental health and substance use disorder services, finding a behavioral health provider, defining behavioral health terms, receiving services, and following up on care. As we gear up for open enrollment, My Health Coverage at a Glance acts as a quick reference to track key pieces of their health coverage information.

Putting patients first is at the center of what we do at CMS. This means working together with patients and providers to identify and address the unique challenges they face and help amplify solutions that will help them meet their needs. By using data to increase understanding of our nation’s diversity and applying that knowledge to the development and dissemination of solutions, we can implement sustainable actions to help Hispanic Americans improve their health and that of their families.


https://www.census.gov/library/audio/profile-america/profileodd/profile-odd-15.html

2 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/18/how-the-u-s-hispanic-population-is-changing/

Image of patient and doctor looking at prescription bottles