IOM recommends HHS accumulate, disperse data on ethnicity

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The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Subcommittee on Standardized Collection of Race/Ethnicity Data for Healthcare Quality Improvement has recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services develop and disperse lists of narrowly defined ethnic categories, as well as written and spoken languages, as part of an effort to standardize the collection of information on patient race, ethnicity and language.

The recommendation was included in a report released by the IOM earlier this month. In the report the subcommittee suggests the quality of health care can vary as a function of race, ethnicity and language and that disparities persist for specific population groups and that a necessary step in identifying which populations are most at risk is to collect data on race, ethnicity and English-language proficiency.

By incorporating this standardized information in EHR systems, the IOM report said, “it will be possible to stratify quality performance metrics, combine data from various sources and make comparisons across settings and payment mechanisms.”

Accumulating these data and making it available “does not, in and of itself, guarantee subsequent actions in terms of analysis of quality-of-care data to identify disparities of actions to reduce or eliminate disparities that are found,” the report said. “The absence of data, however, essentially guarantees that none of these actions will occur.”