photo top HRET Disparities Toolkit
A toolkit for collecting race, ethnicity, and primary language information from patients.
spacer spacer spacer

Why Collect Data Using a Uniform Framework

Current Practices


Hospitals play a major role in a community's health care delivery system and their infrastructure for collecting and using race, ethnicity, and language data is still developing.

  • 92% of hospitals report collecting data on race/ethnicity.
  • 84% of hospitals report collecting primary language data in the patient medical record.

Medical Group Practices

Little is known about the collection of data on race and ethnicity in medical group practices. Medical groups are less likely than hospitals to collect race and ethnicity data (Nerenz, Currier, and Paez 2004).

  • 75% of medical groups that responded to one survey did not collect race/ethnicity data because they thought it was unnecessary or that collection was potentially disturbing to patients.
  • Medical groups that collected the data did so primarily for internal quality improvement or disease management purposes, and some were closely affiliated with hospitals that collected data on race/ethnicity as part of the inpatient registration process.
  • Recognizing this gap is particularly important. We know far less about health care disparities in the outpatient setting as compared with the inpatient setting.

Community Health Centers (CHCs)

Perhaps because of the tremendous diversity of patients seen at CHCs and their mandate to have their boards of directors represent their communities, CHCs appear to be ahead of the curve in collecting information on patient's race and ethnicity.

  • The Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) has demonstrated success in collecting data in this setting. BPHC's Universal Data System stores data from 700 grantees at 3,000 health care sites.
  • The BPHC has established specific racial, ethnic, and primary language data collecting and reporting requirements applicable to its network of CHCs.
  • The success of these programs provides evidence to other medical groups that this information can be routinely obtained from patients in outpatient practices.

Health Plans

In a 2005 study released by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, over half (53.5%) of 137 plans that were surveyed collect data that identifies the race or ethnicity of their enrollees.

  • 78.2% of Medicaid health plans collect race and ethnicity data.
  • 74.3% of Medicare plans collect race and ethnicity data.
  • 50.9% of commercial plans collect race and ethnicity data.

Health plans report they collect such data to identify enrollees at risk for certain conditions, to support educational and other communication efforts directed to diverse populations, and to structure quality improvement efforts.

Look to the blue Links column to the right for helpful resources.

<< Prev Page  |  Next Page >>



Keep Posted!
Sign up if you would like us to keep you informed regarding updates to the Disparities Toolkit and this web site. We will not share your information with anyone.


community connections
community connections
HRET (in partnership with AHA)
This Web site contains links to sites that are not owned or maintained by the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) or the American
Hospital Association (AHA). HRET and AHA are not responsible for the content of linked sites and the views expressed on non-HRET/AHA
linked sites do not necessarily reflect the views of the Health Research and Educational Trust or the American Hospital Association.