Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

Why Are Patient Demographics Important in Health and Social Care?

Sanitary and demographic data play a crucial role in evaluating the health of a population. Healthcare authorities rely on information about population size to develop plans for health improvement, determine the quantity and location of medical facilities, and plan the training of medical staff.

Demography, as a scientific field, examines the numerical makeup of the population, its distribution by gender, age, social and professional groups, and the movement of people across regions. Demographic statistics are widely applied in:

  • Assessing population health, including birth rates, mortality, and average life expectancy.
  • Understanding reproduction patterns that shape local population structure.
  • Planning and forecasting healthcare facility networks based on population size and structure.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of planning and forecasting medical-social activities.

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Ultimately, without an understanding of the quantitative and qualitative composition of the population, it's challenging to conduct a thorough statistical analysis of health, medical institution activities, and clear planning. Healthcare heavily relies on data related to population statistics and dynamics.

Medesk is an assistant for clinic managers, collects and presents complex statistics about the work of the clinic in a simple and understandable way, that makes it easier for the manager to make both operational and strategic decisions.

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Today, we will take a detailed look at the importance of demographic data for health and social care and establish key aspects of data collection and keeping. Let's dive in.

Personal Demographics Service in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man

In England, Wales, and the Isle of Man, the Personal Demographics Service (PDS) was created to collect NHS patient data. It is a database of all registered patients who have ever sought help from NHS clinics.

The PDS stores the following data:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Contact details
  • Registered GP
  • Nominated pharmacy
  • NHS number.

Ethnicity data is not included in the PDS as it is sensitive and could lead to discrimination and health inequalities. Children born in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man are assigned an NHS number, which is used to identify the patient.

The database has benefits for both social workers and healthcare workers, as well as patients.

Benefits for workers:

  • It allows workers to quickly identify the patient and enter their data into their medical record using the NHS number.
  • It provides quick communication with the patient in emergency cases, via email or text message.
  • It is used for medical research to identify patterns and monitor diseases.

Benefits for patients:

  • It allows patients to quickly find their NHS number.
  • It allows patients to update their contact details online without having to call or visit the hospital.
  • Patients can register with a GP using a separate service in the database.

The data in the database is secure. Anyone who wants to view or edit the information must authenticate and authorize themselves to use the service. Health and social care workers use smartcards to log in. Records of each login and action taken are stored.

High-Quality Data Leads to High-Quality Decisions

Some clinics and specialists also include the following health information along with demographic data:

  • Insurance information
  • Medical history
  • Education
  • Employer

Education and employer information will not have a direct impact on the treatment process, but they can be useful for marketing campaigns and sociological surveys. It is important to remember to obtain the patient's consent to process their data.

However, simply collecting data is not enough. It is important to monitor its quality. So, which of all the demographic information can be considered high-quality?

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For example, if a patient has blood tests done, the results need to be returned to the doctor quickly, and they need to be accurate and relevant so the doctor can use this information to diagnose the patient's condition. If the laboratory results are accurate, the doctor will be able to decide how best to treat the patient.

If the information is timely, the doctor can make a decision about how best to treat the patient quickly. When the demographic data is accessible and can be easily obtained, the doctor can efficiently assess and diagnose a patient.

All information about a patient's health status should be checked, clarified, and made available within a single medical ecosystem.

Why Do Patient Demographics Matter?

Databases with patient demographic information simplify the lives of social care and healthcare workers and impact health outcomes for several reasons. Here are some of the benefits of managing patient demographics for public health.

Speed up the billing process

If you have collected and verified insurance information and other data about the patient, it will be easy for you to issue an invoice to the correct address and receive reimbursement. If you do not do this, there may be delays in payment.

To automate billing and invoicing, use practice management software with integrated health records. This way, you will not only be able to securely store data about your patients in one place with 24/7 access, but you will also be able to send invoices and receive payment with a single click.

Facilitate effective communication with patients

Building trust is essential for healthcare providers. How can you trust someone you don't know well? A database with up-to-date patient demographics helps to offer the person the necessary services, send reminders about upcoming appointments, communicate via email and messaging, and administer patient portals in clinics.

Friendly communication with patients is beneficial for both sides. The patient sees that the doctor knows everything they need to know about their health status and constantly updates the information. This allows the patient to relax, trust the specialist, and take an active role in their own treatment.

Medesk helps to manage the work with patients. The platform tracks the entire history of interaction with them: from the attraction channel to the profit received.

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Healthcare workers, thanks to convenient databases, significantly reduce no-shows and cancellations thanks to waiting lists and active patient engagement. Online booking modules in most medical information systems help not only to schedule an appointment but also to create a patient database that can be used for useful mailings and information.

Contributes to national statistics and research

Thanks to big data and demographic data, scientists can identify risk factors among social, age, and ethnic groups.

For example, “the risk of mental health issues among the unemployed is 1.5 to 3.5 times higher than among the employed.”

Research data is popularized and disseminated in the form of brochures, infographics, training videos, or any other material that helps to raise awareness and educate the public. In addition, large amounts of data are used to select the location of hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.

Increases cultural competence

Representatives of healthcare systems are aware of the population groups with which they interact most often thanks to the data collected about patients. Having information about ethnicity and gender identity can help build quality relationships with the patient without harassment or discrimination. A culturally competent specialist is aware of the differences in the lifestyles of their patients and adapts communication and treatment to these trends.

Improves advertising performance

Patient data is used to identify the most effective channels for outreach campaigns and targeted marketing.

How American Care System Deals with Patient Data Sharing

In the United States, datasets are collected and stored in a variety of ways.

Patient records. Demographic data is collected when patients visit health services. This data is typically stored in electronic health records (EHRs).

Registration forms. Patients register for health insurance or other services and leave their data.

Surveys. Healthcare providers, government agencies, or research organizations administer surveys and collect information.

Data brokers. Data brokers collect and sell demographic data to businesses and organizations that use it for a variety of purposes, such as marketing and advertising.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of patient health information.

According to HIPAA, healthcare and social service providers must take steps to protect collected data. Here are some examples of these measures:

Patient consent. Before collecting data, a provider must obtain written consent from the patient to use their personal information.

Limited access. Only authorized personnel are allowed to access databases and use patient data.

With the Medesk platform, we guarantee 100% security and reliability. All your data is protected during the transmission and storage. You can also set up different access levels for your colleagues.

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Protection from unauthorized access. Healthcare providers must take steps to protect patient data from unauthorized access, such as using firewalls and encryption.

HIPAA also gives patients certain rights with respect to their health information, such as the right to access their records and the right to request that their records be corrected.

In the United States, a variety of organizations monitor the use of demographic data, including:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It conducts audits of healthcare organizations to ensure they are in compliance with HIPAA.
  • The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may impose fines on healthcare organizations that violate HIPAA.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) requires researchers receiving NIH funding to sign a non-disclosure agreement in which they pledge to protect data privacy.
  • The National Association for the Protection of Patient Rights (NACHP) provides information and resources to patients and healthcare organizations on data privacy issues.

Wrapping Up

Demographic data plays a crucial role in health and social care for a number of reasons. It helps to identify patients, provide effective communication with patients, contribute to national statistics and research, increase cultural competence, and improve advertising performance.

It is important to collect and store demographic data in a secure manner and to give patients access to their data and the right to have it corrected.

If you want to learn more about practice management, we encourage you to read our blog.

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