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J Registry Manag. 2012 Summer;39(2):76-80.

The challenges of abstracting reliable information on patient race and ethnicity: initial observations from the Data Improvement Project on Patient Ethnicity and Race (DIPPER).


The Hospital Association of Rhode Island, in conjunction with the Rhode Island Cancer Registry, received funding for a special project to improve the validity and reliability of race and ethnicity data in hospital inpatient records. One aspect of the project is to examine how hospital cancer registrars (CRs) locate, interpret, and code patient race and ethnicity. In the present report, we discuss initial findings on this topic, gleaned from discussions with registrars at 11 acute care hospitals. Several problems related to business practice, software, and training were identified. The following solutions are offered: raising the awareness of all hospital staff about the value of race and ethnicity data and the challenges of cancer registration, removing barriers to data recorded at the time of patient registration, modifying software and software routines, and providing additional regular training to patient registration staff about the collection of race and ethnicity data.

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