In light of the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color and the broader push for racial justice, health care organizations are prioritizing health and racial equity within their work. There is increasing recognition that meaningful partnerships with patients and communities of color can help these organizations more effectively understand, address, and reduce health disparities. While health care leaders see the value of partnering with patients, many are uncertain about how to advance effective and scalable strategies to ensure patient voices are meaningfully woven into organizational decision making.

To address barriers to effective partnership between health care systems and patients — such as systemic power imbalances, lack of trust from patients, and cultural differences — the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), with support from the New York Health Foundation, coordinated a 12-month learning collaborative with New York-based health care organizations. The collaborative sought to strengthen participants’ capacity to:

  • More meaningfully partner with patients and communities of color through existing or new mechanisms, including patient ambassador programs, advisory councils, and digital engagement tools;
  • Develop an action plan to use patient engagement strategies more effectively within internal health equity improvement efforts, such as quality improvement and patient-centered measurement; and
  • Sustain and expand these efforts by integrating patient engagement strategies into existing organizational structures and mechanisms.

The collaborative included seven competitively selected health care organizations:

These sites received tailored one-on-one technical assistance and took part in group learning opportunities that enabled peer-to-peer exchange, project implementation support, and discussions on challenges and best practices. CHCS also distilled lessons from the participating sites and publicly shared emerging strategies to support other health care organizations seeking to engage patients and communities of color more meaningfully.