Acknowledging potential barriers and addressing them is key to engaging staff and showing that you have thought the project through. In many cases, your own staff should be involved in a discussion of those barriers and given an opportunity to provide input. As front-liners, they will have valuable insights to add to the discussion.
A review of barriers to demographic data collection from previous hospitals and medical settings reveal several common themes. The majority of these challenges relate to the practicality of collecting data, and therefore directly involve the work of those who will be collecting this information from patients.
Patients may have reservations about giving sensitive information due to mistrust or ambiguity regarding the purpose and handling of data.
Several researchers have found that patients are more comfortable and willing to answer demographic questions when the purpose of data collection is clearly explained (improve quality and equity) and data privacy is assured.
Time & Cost
Many hospitals have stated time and cost as a primary reason for not collecting demographic data, particularly “time constraints during registration.”
Research from hospitals that have implemented standardized demographic data collection have not found evidence of “time” being an obstacle, despite its prevalence during the planning stages. Training and increased familiarity with the process are cited as key elements for addressing time constraints.
Many hospitals have stated time and cost as a primary reason for not collecting demographic data, particularly “time constraints interviews with hospital staff and a review of a number of Toronto’s data collection practices have found that staff discomfort is an often-cited barrier that make individuals hesitant about collecting demographic information.
This barrier is often rooted in ambiguity regarding how to ask demographic questions and address any patient concerns.
Once staff are trained on a standardized, clear method that permits them to incorporate questions into their routine, their discomfort level decreases.
A commonly cited barrier to asking demographic variables is the ambiguity surrounding the legality of obtaining that information, especially whether laws prohibit asking questions around issues of race, religion, and income.
Concerns regarding the legality of asking demographic questions are unfounded.
Furthermore, the Ontario Human Rights Commission encourages the collection of demographic information as a strategy for championing equity.