The American Hospital Association honored the Cleveland Clinic with its annual Equity of Care Award at the Health Forum–AHA Leadership Summit in July. The award recognizes outstanding hospital and health system efforts to achieve care equity for all patients and advance diversity within the organization’s workforce, leadership and governance. Four health systems also were named as honorees for the award: CHRISTUS Health in Irving, Texas; MetroHealth System in Cleveland; Navicent Health in Macon, Ga.; and West Tennessee Healthcare in Jackson.

“Our winners’ efforts to reduce health care disparities and foster diversity within their leadership and staff offer powerful examples for the rest of the field,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “They show what can be achieved to ensure that care is equitable for all.”

Among its many achievements in addressing care inequities, Cleveland Clinic has maintained an ongoing commitment to the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities and the AHA’s #123forEquity campaign, created to accelerate the progress of the National Call to Action. As a foundational element of this work, Cleveland Clinic has developed extensive resources to increase the collection and use of data on ethnicity and race, language preference and other relevant patient demographics.

“Collecting real data is essential to improving health care, and it drives all our decision-making,” said Cleveland Clinic Chief of Staff Brian Donley, M.D. “We are honored by this recognition, but there is always more to do around diversity improvement and doing what’s right for all patients.”

To support its caregivers in providing high-quality, all-inclusive care, Cleveland Clinic instituted both online and instructor-led cultural competence training, available to all staff year-round. Such flexible scheduling empowers all providers to continuously work on their patient-engagement skills while holding them accountable to a system metric for the training. Donley said that 94 percent of the system’s caregivers met the metric requirement in 2015, including participation in 56 requested courses.

The system also implemented several pipeline development programs to support minority high school and college students’ pursuit of health care careers and continuing education, including coaching, mentoring, conferences and think-tank sessions with Cleveland Clinic staff. In addition, 11 Employee Resource Groups across the organization help to address the health care and wellness needs of specific patient populations, including military health, an interfaith network and ClinicPride, an LGBT patient resource. The grassroots groups are open to all Cleveland Clinic caregivers and staff and are designed to provide diversity education, overcome language barriers and increase cultural awareness and competence. At the broader system level, 19 Diversity Councils across the system provide strategic direction to Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“We drive diversity at the highest level, starting with our CEO and board leadership,” Donley said. “Our guiding principle has always been defined by two words: patients first. Our leadership recognizes that the more culturally competent care we provide, the better our quality, access and care affordability will be. Everyone seeks meaning and purpose in their work, and our 49,000 employees find that our diverse culture helps them to do just that.”