How EHR Standards Impact Deaf Individuals’ Health Equity

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Barriers to health equity research for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients were detailed in a viewpoint piece published in the American Medical Informatics Association Journal this week, and how EHRs may be exacerbating such barriers. Researchers claim that EHR systems may be hindering the efforts to improvise the healthcare outcomes for deaf and hard-of-hearing American Sign Language users, even though EHR systems can be highly beneficial in recognizing the health inequities.

To ensure the accessibility of patients to services such as an interpreter or bilingual healthcare provider if required, healthcare quality firms mandate the collection of patient language preferences in the EHR. Non-English speaking patients benefit from such communication services because they have an upgraded patient experience and have better health benefits. However, accurate linguistic status is not consistently gathered and reported in the EHR, resulting in extensive data quality concerns.

According to the researchers, language status misclassification can have a wide range of consequences in the clinical setting, including hampered patient-provider relationships and collaborative decision-making, as well as making it even harder to employ an interpreter on time.

Numerous approaches were preferred by the researchers to address the concern:

  • ASL and signed languages should be included as capabilities in data frameworks by health informatics professionals and software developers.
  • When querying data points, health systems should collaborate with health informatics providers to make sure that the tools available to academics and practitioners incorporate languages with limited diffusion and non-majority languages.
  • Users of electronic health records (EHRs) should appropriately record the patient’s preferred languages in their medical records.

According to the researchers, misclassification of DHH patients has repercussions for care delivery and health equity research. Enhancing the accuracy of DHH patients’ EHR language documentation will necessitate a multifaceted strategy.

In recent years, the importance of electronic health records (EHRs) in research and care has gained increased attention, especially since patients have easier access to their records. Clinical workflows should be evaluated to see if there are any chances to make preferred language EHR documentation smoother.

Front desk employees should instantly document a new patient’s language preference in the EHR, according to a promising strategy now employed in a primary care clinic addressing DHH patients.

“We advise proactive actions – from all stakeholders – to guarantee DHH ASL-using patients’ linguistic statuses are accurately recorded to increase health equity for this population,” – the researchers concluded in the JAMIA study.