Rani Morrison, MS, MSW, the chief diversity and community health officer University of Illinois Hospital and Health System, has been working to close health disparities and support health equity ever since stepping into her role in August 2021. Under her leadership, UI has begun utilizing a range of technology to connect with healthcare patients, structured their case management to better support under-supported communities and improved their physician advisor program, increasing their involvement with patients, and reducing health disparity.
Morrison is an avid supporter and user of CipherHealth, which allows UI to automate post-discharge calls and increase their reach rate to more patients and improve the public health in their community. By leveraging CipherHealth’s digital tools, UI can now support patients by phone who may not have the full range of technology available to them at home and are not accessing the patient portal. Moreover, the possibilities for capturing key data about social determinants of health have opened up and can eventually be used to inform new healthcare programs.
In a recent article in PatientEngagementHIT, Morrison shared how she and her team used automated outreach to alert patients about their vaccination options. And digital outreach has been essential to closing care gaps to those with limited health literacy. “It’s made it a smoother pathway for some of our patients, again, who oftentimes have access issues, who don’t know who to call, who don’t know how to navigate or say the right words to get what they need,” Morrison said.
Morrison was recently featured in a series of articles in which she spoke about growing UI’s health equity mission, pivoting to telehealth and learning to adapt during COVID-19 to improve health outcomes. Here are some key takeaways and inspiring quotes:
On patient education
“We want patients to be involved and engaged, so they feel they are part of the process no matter their resources and no matter their baseline health literacy.” (UI Health Boosts Efforts to Service Underserved Communities)
On health equity and literacy
“I want to make sure UI Health is not a part of the problem — ever. I intend to use my influence to address that and make things better for people in our hospitals and the broader community.” (UI Health Chief Diversity and Community Health Equity Officer on strategies, tactics to advance equity)
On the intentional use of telehealth
“We’ve moved telehealth to a more sophisticated model over the last year. We have a more deliberate telehealth practice in terms of our mental health practice, in terms of our medical practices to really be intentional with how we’re delivering telehealth.” (Progress in Health Equity Requires Reassessment, Iteration)
On becoming a C-Suite executive
“Be impatient, impolite and shatter stereotypes. A lot of times we are programmed as women, and as Black women, to be patient. To wait. We’re told: ‘If you do the right things and work hard, it will come.’ And I think being patient and sitting waiting your turn is highly overrated. I don’t think we should have to wait our turn, if there is an opportunity and you’re the right person, you can make that turn come and not be patient.” (UI Health Chief Diversity and Community Health Equity Officer on strategies, tactics to advance equity)
On revamping the Physician Advisor program
“The physician advisors have been instrumental in pushing systemic changes around our patients and our patients’ needs, which has been helpful to our underserved patients because the physician advisors can identify issues and take a step back to have a 360-degree view.” (UI Health Boosts Efforts to Service Underserved Communities)
On taking a three-pronged approach to strategic priorities for UI Health
“As this is a new role for UI Health, I spent the first few months looking at our needs… I broke it into three categories: addressing the role to think about people, internal efforts, leadership policies, and how we work internally; creating an inclusive and equitable environment to support our extremely diverse patient population by making sure we are training staff to support them; and the community, including how we partner and invest in the community to address equity, both programmatically and financially. “ (UI Health Chief Diversity and Community Health Equity Officer on strategies, tactics to advance equity)
On continually reassessing how to meet the needs of her community
“That’s how we’ve been approaching it every year—what can we do to serve our patients better? Taking into account the dynamics of the healthcare industry, the dynamics of the city, what’s going on around us in terms of social determinants of health and the environment and the climate.” (Progress in Health Equity Requires Reassessment, Iteration)
Morrison and her team at UI continue to partner with CipherHealth to better support their community, provide personalized patient communications and transform data insights into actionable improvements for the entire health system.