by AT News Team

The Center on Health Disparities in Takoma Park has been awarded a contract by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission to train hospital employees across the state in methods of collecting better data about patients' ethnic backgrounds, according to the Gazette suburban newspapers published by Post-Newsweek Media. The improved information will help public health officials, health care institutions and health professionals address disparities in health care and health outcomes among various communities.
 
The first of the one-day seminars is scheduled for June 28 at the Maryland Hospital Association offices in Elkridge, a suburb of Baltimore. Sessions will also be held in the mountains of western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. Each seminar will include a panel discussion by hospital patients who will talk about their experiences as well as their reactions to being asked about their ethnic background, language preferences, etc.
 
Hospitals have long collected demographic data about patients and have used it to help explain trends in disease and health-promotion factors, but "the accuracy of the data is questionable," said Marcos Pesquera, executive director of the center. Questions about race, ethnicity and language can be offensive to patients, leading to apprehension among care-givers. As health care relies more on electronic medical records, collecting accurate information becomes more important.
 
An example of the importance of ethnographic information in health care was provided by the center. A comparison of two recent years found that infant mortality among African Americans was 2.7 percent higher than among whites. Among Hispanic and Latino residents those without health insurance were more than five times the proportion among non-Hispanic whites.
 
The center is an agency of Adventist HealthCare, the organization affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland and New Jersey that operates four hospitals and a number of home health and nursing care institutions. Perhaps best known of the institutions is Washington Adventist Hospital which shares a campus with Washington Adventist University one mile from the District of Columbia.
 
The training sessions are being conducted in partnership with the Maryland Hospital Association and the Institute for Family- and Patient-Centered Care. Maryland is noted among hospital administrators as having the most highly regulated health care system in the United States.