Understanding patients’ beliefs, practices, cultural and linguistic needs lead to better care coordination and better patient engagement over time. For healthcare organizations that don’t prioritize cultural respect with patients the fallout can lead to patients disappearing from the healthcare system.
“Patients may not continue to go to organizations and thus there is a financial impact when the interaction is not positive or respectful to them as an individual,” says Jon Walter McKeeby, DSc, MBA, CPHIMS, CPHI, chief information officer for the National Institute of Health (NIH) Clinical Center.
NIH has promoted cultural respect as a part of its Clear Communication initiative that includes plain language health information and health literacy for specific populations.
“Having an awareness of certain demographics is important for medical professionals when communicating to patients,” McKeeby says. Demographics may include age, sex, gender identity, race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, language, education level, and desired methods of communicating information such as phone, email, or patient portal.
NIH leaders say that using EHRs, patient portals and other technology can prepare providers to have a better understanding of patient’s cultural and language needs when treating them.
“When medical care is required, patients often feel vulnerable and stressed,” McKeeby says. “Often, knowing certain demographic characteristics of a patient can help medical professionals better communicate with each other and can positively impact how patients perceive that communication.”
What complete EHR records include
A study published in the Spring 2018 Perspectives in Health Information Management, a peer-reviewed research journal of the AHIMA Foundation, found that many master patient index records, which records both demographic and visit-specific information are incorrect or incomplete. All of the providers surveyed said that the lack of consistency in records is due to demographic information from patients that are constantly changing. Others point to lack of data points that address all of the demographic fields that providers need to capture.
McKeeby says that data collection should include robust demographic information that prepares providers in communicating with patients.
“An understanding or awareness of individual patient’s demographics can assist with all of the following communication components through the patient care process: how to address the patient, the language spoken and need for a translator, the way in which care providers communicate to the patient and the patient’s family, the reading level and understanding of patient education materials, and the way in which a medical team reviews discharge education with the patient,” McKeeby says.
Making sure gender and language fields are current in EHRs is an important part of patient care, McKeeby says.