There are currently large and worrisome health disparities across the United States in access to quality health care between racial and ethnic minority groups and white Americans. In some cases these disparities have existed for a long time and are getting worse.
Collecting and analyzing valid and reliable data regarding these disparities provides the building blocks for identifying differences in care and developing targeted interventions to improve the quality of care delivered to specific population groups—regardless of whether those population groups are identified by geography, disability, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity.
The Affordable Care Act expands the current requirements for the collection and analysis of health care disparities data. The new health reform law recognizes that greater efforts are needed to quantify racial and ethnic disparities in health care, to investigate their causes and impacts, and to implement and evaluate interventions to address them. There are a significant number of provisions in ACA that require the collection and analysis of data on racial and ethnic health care disparities. These data will be critical for guiding both government policy and the programs and practices of individual health care institutions and providers.
It is important that the collection of data on racial and ethnic heath care disparities is not merely confined to sample sets but involves all health care providers as willing participants in the effort. The importance is twofold: first, the larger the data sets, the more reliable the information; second, health care providers who have data from their own institutions and practices are more likely to look at disparities in care, design targeted programs to improve quality of care, and provide patientcentered care.
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine concludes that although the annual National Health Disparities Report and the companion National Healthcare Quality Report have made valuable contributions in raising awareness and identifying gaps in quality and equity in the nation’s health care, the reports could be improved and could be more influential in promoting improvements in the health care system.
For more on this issue please see:
Measuring the Gaps by Lesley Russell