Research has shown that racial and ethnic minorities experience a lower quality of health services than White Americans, and are less likely to receive routine medical care. And when many ethnicities are grouped into one racial category (e.g. Asian), it can mask underlying disparities among subgroups (e.g. Vietnamese, Afghan).
While MaineHealth has already committed to collecting race, ethnicity and language (REL) data from patients (and has exceeded its goal), regulatory agencies are increasingly encouraging hospitals to collect more precise data to identify and reduce health disparities. By proactively adding an ethnic background query process in November 2022, MaineHealth has positioned itself as a leader among health care systems that are revamping their REL data collection efforts.
Providing the Best Care to Every Patient
“Many patients don’t understand why we’re asking these questions, but I have several team members who champion this initiative by explaining why we ask and remaining calm and supportive,” explained Lori Pfaff, Patient Access Pre-Services Manager at MaineHealth. Asking these questions helps us understand who our patients are so we can identify things that may be affecting their health risks and outcomes. MaineHealth is also translating vital documents into the languages most frequently used by our patients to ensure we’re providing patients with materials that they can understand.
MaineHealth will soon begin to collect sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data, a next step toward better understanding our patients so we can provide care specific to their needs.
Striving for Health Equity
This is all part of a larger strategy focused on health care equity. A Health Care Equity Steering Committee was created to monitor progress toward goals, ensure MaineHealth meets regulatory and reporting requirements, and prioritize future initiatives. MaineHealth is committed to examining our health care spaces, processes and policies through an equity lens, continually striving to identify and eliminate health disparities in the communities we serve.