Sixth National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations: Peer-to-Peer Practice Advancement Sessions Identifying and Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care at Harvard Pilgrim

Special Session II Joining forces to reduce disparities: Lessons learned from the National Health Plan Collaborative

Identifying and Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care at Harvard Pilgrim
Monday, September 22, 2008: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM, Minn Marriott, 8th Floor - Spring Park Bay
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health plan based in Wellesley, Mass., provides health insurance coverage and managed care services to over one million individual, group and Medicare members in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.  Harvard Pilgrim has been rated the #1 health plan in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report and the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the past three years.

Harvard Pilgrim first began looking for potential disparities in care in the late 1990s through a collaborative health assessment initiative co-sponsored with the MA Department of Public Health and funded by the U.S Centers for Disease Control.  While this initiative enabled the analysis of aggregate health plan data on preventive screening and pregnancy-related quality measures and comparison with benchmarks, it did not permit the identification of individual members, their providers or their communities as needed to target quality improvement interventions.  However, it did provide the information necessary to engage Harvard Pilgrim’s senior management in a discussion of disparities and global strategies that might be taken to help address them. 
In 2004, Harvard Pilgrim became one of ten founding health plans in the National Health Plan Collaborative for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities. In 2005, Harvard Pilgrim implemented a management structure that assures the incorporation of disparities initiatives in our annual quality workplan and performance metrics.

Since that time, Harvard Pilgrim has implemented both global and targeted strategies to:
·         collect self-reported race, ethnicity and language (REL) for our members;
·         apply tools to geo/surname code a proxy race and ethnicity for members for whom we do not have self-reported race and ethnicity data;
·         use both self-reported and proxy REL data to analyze Harvard Pilgrim’s performance on both clinical quality and service metrics and identify any disparities;
·         use REL data to target provider groups and communities for interventions to reduce indentified disparities;
·         use REL data to target member materials for translation;
·         use REL data to assure the availability of interpreter services;
·         incorporate culturally appropriate messaging in our outreach and education materials;
·         implement member, provider and community-based interventions to reduce identified disparities in care; and
·         evaluate the effectiveness of our disparities reduction efforts.

  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.pdf (283.7 kB)
  • Presentation Information:

    Program: Peer-to-Peer Practice Advancement Sessions

    Kathryn L. Coltin, MPH , Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Wellesly, MA
      Director, External Quality Data Initiatives
      Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
      93 Worcester Street
      Wellesly MA, USA 02481

      Phone: 617-509-7287
      Fax: 617-509-2042
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Kathryn L. Coltin, M.P.H is Director, External Quality Data Initiatives at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Ms. Coltin has served on several national advisory committees in the area of health care performance measurement and reporting. She served as a member of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics for eight years, chairing its Quality of Care Workgroup. Ms. Coltin has led Harvard Pilgrim’s initiatives to identify and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in health care since 1998 and serves as their representative to the National Health Plan Collaborative on Reducing Racial/Ethnic Disparities. She served on the Massachusetts Medicaid Disparities Policy Roundtable on designing performance incentives for reducing racial/ethnic disparities in the MA Medicaid program. She currently serves on the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Finding Answers: Disparities Solutions for Change” program, the Sounding Board for the Disparities Solution Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and the NCQA Cultural and Linguistic Access Standards Advisory Committee. Ms. Coltin holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Boston University. She completed pre-doctoral course work in the Joint Program for Advanced Studies in Health Policy of Boston University and Brandeis University.