A recent Brookings analysis of U.S. Census data confirmed what you may have noticed but not yet internalized: the racial and ethnic makeup of our cities and suburbs has changed. Dramatically. Hispanics now make up the largest minority population in major cities—26 percent vs. 17 percent in 1990. Meanwhile, the black population has declined from 24 to 22 percent and the white population dropped from 53 to 41 percent. Hispanics also are transforming the demographic makeup of the suburbs with a 49 percent growth since 2000.
What does this mean for trustees? Your hospitals serve a more diverse community than they did 10 and 20 years ago. However, it's unlikely that every minority population receives the same quality of care as that of the majority.
Our cover story this month explains how a handful of hospitals collected the racial, ethnic and preferred language data that enables them to link a minority population with certain diagnoses or outcomes. Once a gap in quality is identified, clinicians and staff can drill down to root causes, reach out to the minority community and begin to remedy the disparity. Note that this is a problem backed by data—an organization can't fix the problem without knowing exactly who is being treated for what and the outcome. Even those who insist that every individual who crosses the threshold of your hospital receive the same care can't argue with cold, hard numbers that say otherwise.
Racial and ethnic minorities are just what we can track today. Sexual orientation, education level, religion and numerous other factors also can put a patient in a minority population. At first, we may prefer to leave these stones unturned, but the discomfort of discovery can be eased knowing the hospital truly is meeting its mission with every single patient.