Following successful pilot projects, 17 hospitals in Toronto, Ontario are now collecting and aggregating demographic information about their patients, as part of a mandate from the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network to improve care.

"The reason for collecting this information is to understand who our clients and patients are, so we can provide and plan for programs and services to meet their individual needs," officials from Mount Sinai Hospital, which led the data collection pilots, said. "Collecting demographic data is fundamental for eliminating health inequities and finding opportunities for improvement in the quality of care that we provide."

The data is analyzed to detect differences in health outcomes experienced by clients and patients based on demographic variables like race, language, and income. Solutions are put in place and the data is then used to see if the solutions reduce health inequities.

"With all hospitals and community health centers collecting the same demographic information in the exact same way, there is a strengthened capacity for a system-wide approach to ensuring the best health outcomes for all across the Toronto Central LHIN," hospital officials said.

Data is collected through questionnaires, which contain eight core and three optional questions around language, race/ethnicity, length of stay in Canada, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, religion and housing.

Mount Sinai researchers, with colleagues from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, St Michael’s Hospital, and Toronto Public Health, began the pilot program in 2010. A variety of data collection methods were used to reflect the unique patient populations of each site, which included hospitals and community health centers, while allowing the partners to examine the impact of different collection techniques on data quality. The data collectors gathered patient information through in-person interviews, paper copies and computer tablets in waiting rooms.

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