Public Act 21-35 (PA 21-35) was passed by the Connecticut State Legislature in June of 2021 and declares a public health crisis due to racism. The goal of the legislation is to reduce racial disparities from a baseline established on Jan. 1, 2022 by 70%. According to the CT Office of Health Strategy, Black and Brown communities in Connecticut experience serious disparities in clinical and population health outcomes and disproportionately suffer from maternal morbidity, asthma, diabetes, and COVID-19.
Connecticut hospitals and healthcare providers are required by this law to collect self-reported demographic data voluntarily provided by patients, including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, primary language, insurance status and disability status. This data is to be included in the patient’s electronic health records (EHR) for inclusion in Connie, the state’s health information exchange (HIE). The collection and use of race, ethnicity and language (REL) data is necessary for healthcare providers to understand their patient populations and implement appropriate interventions for improving quality of health care delivery. This standard collection of data will also assist in identifying and finding solutions to preexisting healthcare disparities.
The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) supports the goal of health equity; specifically, to reduce health disparities caused by socio-economic factors that intersect in people’s lives including race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and income. In consultation with other state agencies, OHS is developing the race and ethnicity data collection standard in alignment with the OHS Community and Clinical Integration Program (CCIP) and US Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and primary languages spoken by non-English speaking foreign-born CT residents in alignment with International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
OHS will also consult with consumer advocates, health equity experts, agencies, and healthcare providers to implement a plan of best practices and guidelines for standardized collection of REL data so providers can meet the regulatory requirements, and ultimately monitor and address racial and ethnic disparities. As a part of the commitment, OHS has partnered with the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to develop REL standard documentation guidelines to facilitate successful collection of the data. The process also involves developing an inventory of high value state health services agencies’ databases covered by the REL standards and working with the Connecticut Health Foundation to ensure provider alignment with guidelines. OHS is also investigating if it is possible to leverage existing resources to assist agencies with implementing these requirements.
If you are a healthcare organization or provider connected with Connie, you will be required to collect REL data following guidelines established by OHS. If you are not already part of the Office of Health Strategy’s distribution list, send a request to Tina Hyde, Manager of External Affairs, Connecticut Office of Health Strategy at firstname.lastname@example.org to be sure you are informed when guidelines are published. As Connie receives more information on the standards and requirements for implementation, we will share them with participating organizations.