Hospitals Collect Race, Language and Ethnicity Data But Do Not Use it to Improve Quality of Care

Study of hospital practices in the collection of race and ethnicity data

Researchers conducted a series of telephone surveys to learn how acute-care hospitals across the United States collect data on race, ethnicity and language and whether and how they use that data to improve quality of patient care. Under Grant ID# 050183, researchers at the National Public Health and Hospital Institute surveyed 500 hospitals, and conducted 64 additional in-depth surveys of public hospitals and health systems with diverse patient populations.

Under Grant ID# 059159, researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services updated the survey, and then interviewed executives at 547 acute-care hospitals. They also conducted in-depth case study interviews with hospitals that reported using race, ethnicity and language data to improve care.

Key Findings

  • In reports to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the project director said that:

    • Most hospitals collected some information on the race, ethnicity or language of their patients, but changes between the two surveys were relatively modest.
      • Four out of five hospitals collected information on race in both surveys.
      • About half the hospitals collected data on preferred language in both surveys.
      • The percentage of hospitals collecting data on ethnicity dropped from about 50 percent in the first survey to just below 42 percent in the second.
    • Less than one in five hospitals that collect data on race, ethnicity or language used it to improve the quality of patient care. Even fewer (about one in seven) used the data to identify health disparities.