Springfield hospital leaders say new health equity dashboard could be very beneficial

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 8:25 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A new dashboard gives a deeper look into many health factors impacting demographic groups across the state.

The Missouri Hospital Association’s new “Health Equity Dashboards” narrow down Missouri health disparities by counties and even zip codes. The dashboards compare dozens of health factors between different populations.

Local hospitals and dashboard creators themselves say the tool could help identify and overcome many health inequities that currently exist. The dashboards can get as specific as comparing data by age, sex, and race across zip codes.

“A guiding tenet of the Missouri Hospital Association’s health equity committee, is you can’t meaningfully change what you don’t meaningfully measure,” said Mat Reidhead, Vice President of Research & Analytics of the Missouri Hospital Association. “And these dashboards were designed with that tenet in mind.”

There are four different dashboards, all very specific and targeted. The dashboards can show, for example, black Greene County residents are nearly 1.5 times more likely to suffer from Asthma than white Greene County residents. The tool also shows white Greene County residents are more likely to suffer from a stroke or heart failure.

”You’re able to quickly identify within a county who is driving that unwanted variation that you’re seeing that’s resulting in generational disparities,” Reidhead said. “And you’re actually able to take a deeper dive and see which zip codes those individuals are living in.”

Reidhead said the dashboards are some of the most specific of their kind.

“It is contributing incredibly granular and finite information and data at the individual demographic level and then at very finite levels of geography that is just unheard of in health data space,” he said.

Local hospital leaders said the dashboards are also some of the most up-to-date they have seen.

”A lot of times when you go to get data for health issues, for Missourians, you’re going to get data that is several years old,” said Molly Holtmann, Mercy Director of Community Health & Access.

The data comes from 41 million hospital claims between the 2018 and 2020 fiscal years. The claims came from 5.4 million Missourians, which represents about 88% of the state’s estimated population.

”With this tool, we can drill down into some of those populations and say, ‘All right, well, this seems to be occurring a lot. How could we spend our dollars to help that and keep it from occurring,’ ” Holtmann said.

The Missouri Hospital Association says the dashboards are a set of tools not just for hospitals.

”There are a lot of stakeholders in closing health disparities and promoting health equity across the state of Missouri,” Reidhead said. “So there are community-based organizations, grassroots organizations, large institutions, and probably Fortune 500 companies in the state that have a vested interest in promoting health equity.”

He said the pandemic also influenced the dashboard.

“If there is a bright side, it’s that it recast and really magnified a very bright spotlight on historically challenging health disparities for socially vulnerable Americans and Missourians of all stripes,” Reidhead said. “Really understanding the disproportionate impact of COVID in virtually every leading cause of premature death for socially vulnerable individuals in communities is really an important first step towards disentangling those complex causal pathways between upstream social determinants of health and downstream health outcomes that just result in generational health disparities.”

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