The Joint Commission’s CMO Dr. Ana Pujols McKee on Health Equity

Dr. Ana Pujols McKee

Joining us today on The Scope is Dr. Ana Pujols McKee, the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at The Joint Commission, which accredits over 22,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the U.S. and many more around the world. Dr. McKee leads physician engagement activities, including fellowships, and has developed numerous programs to support the important role of effective physician leadership and its potential to accelerate an organization’s quality improvement and patient safety initiatives.

A champion of health equity, Dr. McKee works to ensure all patients receive equal treatment. She advocates for health care providers to better understand and address implicit bias in health care. Prior to her current position, Dr. McKee served as Chief Medical Officer and Associate Executive Director at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania Health System, and as Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She also served as chair of the Pennsylvania Safety Authority and Medical Director for the Philadelphia Health Department’s freestanding Ambulatory Medical Health Centers.

On today’s episode, we’re going to be focusing on health equity, how it relates to patient safety, and how both comprise a core component of true value-based care.

Topics Covered in Today’s Interview:

  1. Dr. McKee’s work and the work of others has brought a lot of attention to the problem of health inequities brought on by systemic racism and implicit bias in healthcare. A large majority of stakeholders agree something must be done, yet they persist.
  2. Communities of color have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. McKee talks about whether this slowed efforts towards meaningful change in dealing with health equity or, if this tragic but predictable outcome exposed the deep flaws in the system.
  3. The impact of health inequities on patient safety and quality care is something Dr. McKee has noted needs to be viewed “as significant safety hazards as critical as health care-acquired infections, falls, or wrong site surgery.” We discuss why this is so critical from a moral, ethical, and financial standpoint, and how we get policymakers and clinicians to embrace this view.
  4. What is The Joint Commission doing to educate the community on health inequity and racial injustice? Dr. McKee discusses their upcoming sentinel event on disparities of care, as well as working with the corporate leadership of Kaiser on a national competition and award named after Bernard Tyson, “The Pursuit of Healthcare Equity.” The best example in this competition will be available on The Joint Commission’s site.
  5. People of color in this country, for generations, have faced abysmally substandard care, and sometimes outright abuse, within our healthcare system, which has led to understandable mistrust at a variety of levels. We talk about acknowledging the history, how physicians might have learned biases during training which can have lasting impacts, and how to build trust patient by patient.
  6. Dr. McKee talks about the main powers slowing down the progress, and her advice to healthcare leaders who she believes already have the structure in place to address disparities in care (quality improvement and patient safety infrastructure). She advises that organizations that feel they must build something separate will get lost, and stresses these organizations are already equipped to address this problem. 

To learn more about what The Joint Commission is doing, follow along with them on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Our thanks again goes out to Dr. Ana Pujols McKee for joining us on this vital topic.

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