4 steps to reduce disparities in care

The American Hospital Association has released a new guide that provides hospitals with a four-step approach to optimize data collection based on patient race, ethnicity and language (REAL) information and decrease healthcare disparities.

The guide, a collaboration of the Equity of Care Initiative and AHA's Hospital in Pursuit of Excellence, describes four steps to optimize data collection:

1. Determine appropriate data categories based on patient population: Use publicly available census data, conduct focus groups and surveys with community organizations, and use existing survey data, such as information from local schools.

2. Develop a methodology for collecting REAL data: Have registration staff collect data over the phone when a patient schedules an appointment, using a private form of entry, such as a paper form, kiosk or tablet., but make sure patients self-report the information.

3. Train staff members on a standard methodology for data collection.

4. Assign specific accountability to staff and monitor data collection efforts to ensure processes are working correctly.

The document emphasizes the importance of knowing how to effectively use REAL data. After completing data gathering, hospitals and healthcare systems can use the results in various meaningful ways.

"With this data, hospitals and care systems can stratify outcomes measures to understand where disparities exist, prioritize where to focus time and resources and develop patient-centered interventions," states the report.

The report's significance stems from the need of hospitals and care systems to accommodate to changing demographics, an empowered patient population and new reimbursement models, the report says. Not long ago, the organization created a similar guide outlining steps to become a culturally competent hospital.

"Effective collection and use of REAL data will position hospitals and care systems for success in an environment where regulators, payers, employers and, most importantly, patients are looking for more differentiated and individualized healthcare," according to the new report.

To learn more:
- here's the AHA News Now brief
- check out the guide

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