Monitoring inequalities in healthcare is increasingly being recognized as a key first step in providing equitable access to quality care. However, the detailed sociodemographic data that are necessary for monitoring are currently not routinely collected from patients in many jurisdictions. We undertook a mixed methods study to generate a more in-depth understanding of public opinion on the collection of patient sociodemographic information in healthcare settings for equity monitoring purposes in Ontario, Canada. The study included a provincial survey of 1,306 Ontarians, and in-depth interviews with a sample of 34 individuals. Forty percent of survey participants disagreed that it was important for information to be collected in healthcare settings for equity monitoring. While there was a high level of support for the collection of language, a relatively large proportion of survey participants felt uncomfortable disclosing household income (67%), sexual orientation (40%) and educational background (38%). Variation in perceived importance and comfort with the collection of various types of information was observed among different survey participant subgroups. Many in-depth interview participants were also unsure of the importance of the collection of sociodemographic information in healthcare settings and expressed concerns related to potential discrimination and misuse of this information. Study findings highlight that there is considerable concern regarding disclosure of such information in healthcare settings among Ontarians and a lack of awareness of its purpose that may impede future collection of such information. These issues point to the need for increased education for the public on the purpose of sociodemographic data collection as a strategy to address this problem, and the use of data collection strategies that reduce discomfort with disclosure in healthcare settings.
Kirst, M., Shankardass, K., Bomze, S., Lofters, A., & Quiñonez, C. (2013). Sociodemographic data collection for health equity measurement: A mixed methods study examining public opinions. International Journal for Equity in Health, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-9276-12-75