Health Systems Creating Benchmark for Health Equity
May 9, 2024
Liz Madison
Group photo of numerous adults looking up toward the camera from a stage below

Anyone who has used roadside navigation knows there are multiple directions you can take toward a destination. But what is the best route? Health leaders face a similar question when it comes to health equity. Several leading organizations, including California-based, not-for-profit Sutter Health, set out to create a roadmap and industry standards for identifying and measuring health care inequities, and will present the preliminary recommendations and findings later this month.

Members of the Health Equity Accelerator will lead a panel discussion during the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Health Equity Conference titled, “Gold Standard: Aligning on Best Practice for Measuring Health Inequities and the Impact of Efforts to Reduce Them Across the U.S. Health Care Industry.”

Woman with dark curly hair and red patterned dress stands above and speaks to a man seated at a table during a business meeting.

Dr. Kristen Azar speaks with a colleague at the March 2024 IHI Health Equity Accelerator Meeting in San Francisco.

“Serving as an advisor within the Health Equity Accelerator has provided our Sutter teams with a unique opportunity to keep driving positive change for the industry,” said Dr. Kristen M.J. Azar, executive director of the Sutter Institute for Advancing Health Equity. “We feel strongly about the collaborative’s abilities to eventually enable benchmarking across institutions to facilitate greater health equity and better health outcomes for all.”

The work is driven by a group of dedicated institutions including Sutter Health, Providence, University of Chicago, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, the National Committee for Quality Assurance and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. More than a dozen health systems, FQHCs and payers also have joined the efforts as voluntary participants of the IHI’s Health Equity Accelerator.

The inaugural CMS Health Equity Conference in May 2023 served as a catalyst for these efforts. Executives from the advisory organizations had noticed variation and a lack of standardization in how their institutions evaluated health inequities. Research conducted in part by Dr. Azar helped illuminate those gaps. The group partnered with IHI, leveraging the IHI Leadership Alliance and the Health Equity Accelerator platform to formalize their goals, objectives and approach.  Since then, the group has grown to 19 members, which convened in March for a two-day retreat at Sutter Health’s Innovation Center in San Francisco with support from Genentech. The work has also been supported by Dr. Donald Berwick, who has served as an external advisory council member for the Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity since 2020. Sutter Health has been an IHI Leadership Alliance member for the past two years, where Sutter Health Greater East Bay President Tosan Boyo has been on the IHI board.

A Black woman with a white turtleneck and green-checkered vest speaks at a podium

Dr. Stephanie Brown speaks at the podium during the March 2024 IHI Health Equity Accelerator Meeting in San Francisco.

“Health care organizations still struggle with the lack of standards or best practice consensus despite growing momentum to eliminate longstanding health care disparities and inequities,” said Dr. Stephanie Brown, medical director of the Sutter Institute for Advancing Health Equity. “This work is a first step on the roadmap to identifying the gaps and eventually mitigating disparities and inequities that are identified, which can bring better consensus and clarity, benefiting the entire health care ecosystem.”

In the coming months, the Health Equity Accelerator will produce a guidance document with best practice approaches and examples of health equity metrics dashboards. Health care organizations are welcome to test the recommendations and offer feedback.

“We view health equity as a fundamental component of delivering quality health care,” said Dr. William Isenberg, Sutter Health’s chief medical & quality officer. “We look forward to continuing this work with others, alongside CMS and other regulatory agencies, to help implement standards and best practices that better support health equity tracking and measurement.”

Health care organizations interested in learning more about the health equity measurement best practice recommendations may contact IHI Senior Director Nikki Tennermann at

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