Demographic Data: The Baseline for Advancing Equity
Collecting data from patients about their income, education, race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, health literacy and other demographic information will enable health care providers and systems to better understand individual patient needs as well as identify and address disparities at a population level.
Hospitals, health plans and physician practices are all beginning to collect more data on patient demographics.
The meaningful use requirements for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments under the Health Information will require hospitals and physicians to collect race, ethnicity and language data on at least 50 percent of their unique patients. These requirements will further stimulate data collection activities over the next few years.
Meanwhile, it is important to consider other demographic data which could identify disparities for other underserved populations. For example, there is recent discussion about how best to collect data about sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to improve the quality of health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients and their families.