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New Report Addresses Challenges to the Collection of Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data in Electronic Health Records to Improve Health Equity

Published Sunday, June 1, 2014

A new report from Stratis Health outlines the barriers and challenges in the accurate collection and quality reporting of race, ethnicity, and language (REL) information, and the impact electronic health records (EHR) and staff training has on using REL data to improve health equity. The findings and recommendations are based on surveys and interviews with five clinics that represent a range of practice types, including urban and rural areas, Federally Qualified Health Centers, large integrated delivery systems, and university-based practices.

Disparities in health care quality exist both in Minnesota and nationally. Increasing health equity among and across patient populations is a priority that can be accomplished in part with accurate REL data collection and capacity for reporting.

REL data is collected by hospitals, clinics and care systems, and is a requirement to achieve both Stage 1 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use of EHRs and, as of 2011, required as part of the Minnesota Department Health's Health Care Reform reporting.

"REL data has helped health insurance plans identify disparities, such as differences in the treatment of chronic conditions," said Paul Kleeberg, MD, Stratis Health chief medical information officer. "Accurate collection of this type of data, integrated into EHRs, can make it easier to study the causes of such disparities. It can also streamline the development of targeted interventions to address the specific health equity needs of diverse populations."

The report provides information to help clinic administrators and clinical staff gain insight to the potential challenges to having robust REL data collection capabilities in their existing EHR software, and recommendations for how to overcome those challenges, including:

  • Working with EHR vendors to ensure products have standard reporting capabilities that include REL for quality measures at the provider practice level
  • Putting into practice a comprehensive training program for accurate collection of REL data

It also assists stakeholders, legislators, and governmental entities in gaining awareness of issues faced by providers that they may be able to impact.

The report was produced by Stratis Health, with funding provided by UCare, an independent, nonprofit health plan providing health coverage and services to members in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. UCare serves more people from diverse cultures than any other health plan in Minnesota.

Download a copy of the report. Or find it on Stratis Health's Culture Care Connection website under "Featured Resources".