The Commonwealth Fund Connection

The Commonwealth Fund Connection is as a roundup of recent Fund publications, charts, multimedia, and other timely content. 

Ensuring Equity for Vulnerable Populations

There is a growing health care divide in the United States, where vulnerable populations—those lacking health insurance, low-income families, and racial and ethnic minorities—are at higher risk for poor health and poor health outcomes than the rest of society. The Affordable Care Act will expand insurance coverage and bolster the parts of the health system that serve vulnerable Americans, yet much work remains.

A new report from The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System offers a framework for moving forward, including three overarching strategies: 1) ensure that health coverage provides adequate access and financial protection; 2) strengthen the care delivery systems serving vulnerable populations; and 3) coordinate care delivery with other community resources, including public health services.

New Study: Elderly Minority Patients Concentrated in Low-Performing Hospitals
Hospitals marked by low quality and high costs have double the proportion of elderly black patients as do high-quality, low-cost hospitals, according to a new study in the October issue of Health Affairs. Similar disparities were found for elderly Hispanic and Medicaid patients. The Commonwealth Fund–supported researchers, led by Harvard's Ashish K. Jha, M.D., report that the lower-performing hospitals are typically small public or for-profit institutions in the South, while the higher-performing facilities are typically nonprofit institutions in the Northeast.
Turning Community Health Centers into Medical Homes
new report from The Commonwealth Fund examines how changes in the financing of community health centers—critical providers of health care services to the poor and uninsured—could support their transformation into high-performing patient-centered medical homes.
Blog: The Dutch Health Care System
In a new series on The Commonwealth Fund Blog, Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at the New Republic, will explore the health care systems of four countries: the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. In his first installment, Cohn looked at the Dutch health care system, which includes many features of a high-performance health system. "It provides virtually everybody with high-quality and convenient medical care, and at a much cheaper price than the U.S. system—per capita health spending in the Netherlands in 2009 was only $4,914, compared with $7,960 in the U.S." Like the U.S., the primary source of coverage in the Netherlands is private insurance, though it's made available through a highly regulated marketplace.
Blog: Meeting the Demand for Long-Term Services

In this blog post, The Commonwealth Fund's Caryn Marks, Megan Keenan, and Mary Jane Koren, M.D., discuss an Alliance for Health Reform/Commonwealth Fund briefing on opportunities and challenges in the long-term care system. The briefing highlighted findings from the State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports, published last month by The Commonwealth Fund in partnership with AARP's Public Policy Institute and The SCAN Foundation. Noting the increased demand for services, the authors say that "it is increasingly important not only to improve these services but also to facilitate independence for patients who would rather stay in their own homes than live in nursing homes or other facilities."

Also see the video and additional resources from an October 3 briefing, held by the Alliance for Health Reform and The Commonwealth Fund, for 200 congressional staff and other stakeholders on the scorecard and ways to strengthen the long-term services and support system for elderly and disabled Americans.

Webinar: Optimizing Health Care Reform for Women, Children, and Their Families
Join a webinar on "Optimizing Health Care Reform to Integrate Service Delivery Systems for Women, Children, and Their Families," cosponsored by The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs and The Commonwealth Fund. The webinar will take place on October 12, 2011, 12:30–2:00 p.m. E.D.T. To register, go to: https://cc.callinfo.com/r/18t1xla99k91a.
Updated Data on WhyNotTheBest.org

WhyNotTheBest.org has updated and expanded its data on the incidence of central line–associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), one of the most lethal hospital-acquired complications. The site now includes standardized infection ratios for some 1,570 U.S. hospitals across nearly all states—showing wide variation in CLABSI incidence, despite strong evidence on how to prevent these infections.

In addition, we have updated WhyNotTheBest.org with the most recently available data for the following:

  • CMS process-of-care "core" measures;
  • Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) measures of patient experience;
  • mortality rates for heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia;
  • readmission rates for heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia; and
  • average reimbursement for treatment of these three conditions.

Follow us on Twitter @whynothebest to learn about data updates, new sources of data, new functionality, and other developments.

Association of Health Care Journalists Media Fellowships on Health Performance
The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) Media Fellowships on Health Performance is a yearlong program enabling mid-career journalists to pursue a significant reporting project examining health care systems. With Commonwealth Fund support, reporters attend seminars on health system performance and consult with AHCJ fellowship leaders and experts. Fellows may also receive financial support for field reporting, health data, or other research needs. The application deadline for the next class of fellows is November 4, 2011. Visit http://www.healthjournalism.org/secondarypage-details.php?id=701 to apply.
Fellowship in Minority Health Policy Open to Applicants
The Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy is designed to prepare physicians for leadership roles in promoting health policies and practices that improve access to high-quality care for minority, disadvantaged, and vulnerable populations. The application deadline for the 2012–13 fellowship is January 3, 2012. For more information, please visit: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Fellowships/Minority-Health-Policy-Fellowship.aspx.