Capturing the Data behind Healthcare Disparities

New Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius was on Capitol Hill yesterday with two new reports from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in hand. Both had discouraging news about the quality of healthcare Americans received in 2008.

In particular, Sebelius singled out unequal care. AHRQ’s “2008 National Healthcare Disparities Report,” she told the House Ways and Means Committee, “highlights that severe and pervasive disparities continue to persist in this county. Minority patients still receive disproportionately poor care compared to their Caucasian neighbor.”

Solving healthcare disparities is complicated by a lack of comprehensive data about its prevalence.

Last month in the Journal, Jennifer Hornung Garvin and coauthors wrote, “At the heart of … efforts to develop effective strategies to address healthcare disparities is the need for accurate and complete data. However, data describing racial, ethnic, language, cultural, and socioeconomic characteristics are frequently inaccurate, incomplete, and lacking in detail in the healthcare setting. Sometimes they are not collected at all.”

Addressing healthcare disparities, the authors stress, “requires that providers capture better data about race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, an effort complicated by the sensitive nature of the data and the challenges of categorizing them appropriately.” They point to several data sets that providers can adopt to improve their collection of this so-called equity data in support of efforts to create equal care for all.

See “Data Collection and Reporting for Healthcare Disparities” in the April 2008 issue.

1 Comment

  1. Overall healthcare remains an inefficient system with far too many repetitive and duplicative processes that invariably result in miscommunication and faulty data.

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