Acquiring accurate patient data for best outcomes

Last Modified: 2/03/2023


This post was written by Sarah GiaQuinta, MD, vice president, Community Health and Equity, Parkview Health.

As part of Parkview Health’s “We Ask Because We Care” initiative, the Community Health and Equity team collaborated with the teams who are often a patient’s first point of contact, PPG Patient Access and support staff leadership, to develop a consistent process for acquiring patient data, including race, ethnicity, preferred language and religion, or REAL. We feel it’s important for the communities we serve to understand why REAL information matters.

Why is this work important?

Collecting REAL data is required by meaningful use standards (government standards pertaining to electronic health records) and by the Joint Commission (a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of healthcare in the United States). But it isn’t enough to just document something in the sections of race, ethnicity, preferred language and religion. We need that patient’s information to be accurate, and the best way to capture the right information is through patient self-report.

Race and ethnicity are determined by more than just skin color. Accurate REAL documentation helps providers and clinical teams identify critical services for patients, such as interpreters, and helps clinical teams provide culturally competent care. For example, just because a patient speaks English at check-in, doesn’t mean English is his/her preferred language for a medical care visit. Having a patient’s preferences documented empowers their care team to provide the best experience possible, whenever possible, for the individuals they treat.

How will this data be used?

Differences in health outcomes between groups may be due to income, where a patient lives or clinical bias impacting the care a patient received. Accurate REAL data allows our organization to identify disparities in health outcomes by race and ethnicity and implement strategies to promote equity, which is a priority for our health system.

What if a patient doesn’t want to share this information?

It is OK if a patient doesn’t want to share his/her REAL information. PPG support staff can document “refused” for any patient who do not want to provide an answer to these questions at check-in.

Looking down the road

This work is foundational to Parkview’s health equity strategy, and we look to expand our efforts in the future, as we consider ways to capture additional patient data, such as gender identity and sexual orientation. Our continued goal is to offer tailored, personalized healthcare, and help break down barriers to the best outcomes. We value the unique aspects of every person’s background, culture and life perspective, and we are dedicated to providing excellent healthcare with compassion, empathy and respect.


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