Race, Ethnicity, and Language (REL) Data Collection

Three Important Facts Regarding the Collection of REL Data:

  1. Patients should be asked to self-identify their race/ethnicity/spoken language: Self-reporting is more accurate and respectful. Without the information, providers cannot measure health outcomes and improve patient services. There is also a significant economic impact health disparities for Latino and African American populations alone cost the health care system $23.9 billion in 2009.

  2. Collecting this information helps providers provide better care for patients: Having this data available allows providers and public health practitioners to design and provide better services. Studies have demonstrated that health care services are most effective when tailored to meet the cultural needs of the patients. It has been concluded that cultural competent health care services improve health outcomes.

  3. It’s the law: In 1997, Office of Management and Budget established standardized Race and Ethnicity categories and mandated the collection of REL data. The Affordable Care Act Section 4302 requires data collection standards for race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status. This information will promote change within the healthcare sector because it is clear, concise, and providers will understand why they are being asked to modify their current practices. I believe that most people what to do the best for their patients and for that reason, this will help motivate change within the community.

Three Helpful Tips for Staff Collecting REL Data:

  1. Have a script available for staff to ask the questions the same way each time

  2. Create talking points for staff in case they are questioned about why they ask for this information which provides assurances regarding confidentiality

  3. Establish standard operating procedures to capture the self-identified information in the data system and then group this into the standardized racial and ethnic groups

Other sources for information on REL Data: