New state funding will soon allow Adventist HealthCare to train hospital employees across the state to collect better data about patients’ racial and ethnic backgrounds, something officials believe will help address disparities in health care among different communities.
The Montgomery County-based health provider’s Center on Health Disparities was awarded $14,000 from the state’s Health Services Cost Review Commission, effective June 1, to hold three seminars, one for central Maryland, one for Western Maryland, and one for the Eastern Shore.
Each will include a panel discussion with hospital patients who will talk about their experiences as well as their reactions to being asked about race, ethnicity and language preference.
The sessions will provide hospital staffers with updates and best practices for collecting data on race and ethnicity from patients and their families. Such data is crucial to identifying and addressing disparities, Diane Feeney, the commission’s associate director of quality initiatives, said in a statement.
Training is key because while hospitals do collect demographic data on patients, questions about race or language preference can sometimes offend patients, which can make those who need to ask the questions apprehensive, said Marcos Pesquera, executive director of the Center on Health Disparities.
“The accuracy of the data is questionable,” he said.
But as the industry relies more on electronic medical records, collecting accurate, uniform data becomes more important because it can reveal trends affecting various social, ethnic, and economic groups, Pesquera said. The training will promote accurate data-collection, he said.
A recent study published by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tracked numerous health disparities between groups. For example, from 2006 to 2007, the infant mortality rate for blacks that was 2.7 percent higher than that of whites, and a proportion of Hispanic or Latino Marylanders without health insurance that was 5.4 times higher than the proportion of uninsured non-Hispanic whites for the same period.
The Center on Health Disparities will partner with the Institute for Family- and Patient-Centered Care and the Maryland Hospital Association to host the sessions. The first is scheduled for June 28 at the MHA headquarters in Elkridge.