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Study: Better data collection would help ease disparities

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Sept. 18, 2006

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Health care organizations that collect race, ethnicity and language data are more likely to design programs targeting disparities in care, but many hospitals don't collect data or do it poorly, according to an August Health Services Research study.

Many health care organizations mistakenly believe that tracking such information about their patients is illegal, and those that do collect it often rely on staff observation, a method the authors say is suboptimal.

Physicians and other health professionals are frequently reluctant to ask patients about their backgrounds, so the authors suggest health care organizations design a script explaining that the information will be used to improve the quality of care.

The authors, David W. Baker, MD, MPH, of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and Romana Hasnain-Wynia, PhD, of the Health Research and Educational Trust, also say hospitals should let patients self-identify race, ethnicity and language, rather than pick from a list.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/09/18/prbf0918.htm.

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