Mark Savage on the disparity factor

Inequalities occur in all areas of healthcare, and health information technology is no exception
By Bernie Monegain
10:00 AM
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Mark Savage, National Partnership for Women and Families

As director of health information technology policy and programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families, Mark Savage keeps a close watch on healthcare information technology, along with all other aspects of patient care. The idea, of course, is to even the playing field.

Savage, a lawyer, has a long record of advocating for consumers and multi-cultural communities, with landmark achievements in his work against insurance redlining and ending auto insurers' practice of basing premiums primarily on drivers' ZIP code and basing them instead primarily on driving safety record. 

Before joining the National Partnership, Savage was senior attorney at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. Savage currently serves on the Consumer Empowerment Workgroup of the federal HIT Policy Committee, eHealth Initiative's Leadership Council, and the California Health eQuality Program's Advisory Committee at U.C. Davis Medical Center's Institute for Population Health Improvement.

Landmark wins for the National Partnership, which speaks on behalf of women and families, include the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act (2009), California Family Leave Act (2002), Family & Medical Leave Act (1993), Civil Rights Act (1991), Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978), as well as paid sick days wins in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Connecticut.

Healthcare IT News recently caught up with Savage to talk with him about his work on the health IT front.

Where do the disparities in healthcare mostly occur?

In my experience, I'd say it's all over. Here we are focused on it from the perspective of using health information technology to try to address it. But, before I came here, I worked in California. It took different forms, but across the state, we saw health disparities – the need for linguistic and culturally competent care. It could be all different kinds of communities. This is not just along race or ethnicity lines. It could be along disability. It could be along language. It could have to do with access to resources, whether you had providers who were willing to serve a community. It took many different forms, and I saw it all over. 

Has your organization's emphasis changed to focus more on one aspect or another over the years?

I started here a year ago. I would say we've been working on disparities across the board. So, the HIT team is focused on leveraging health IT. We have a program here that is focused on quality measurement, which has paid some attention to the differences in quality measurement for different communities. We have folks who work on healthcare reform that are acutely aware of the differences in access to coverage and insurance in different communities. We have a program that focuses on patient engagement and is attuned to the ways it can be more – or less – possible for people to be engaged. I think the attention to disparity has persisted for quite some time. And, the solutions we try to bring may vary depending on which program within the National Partnership is looking at it.