Racial and ethnic identification and quality of care: an Australian perspective

Margaret Kelaher, Amy Parry, Susan Day, Yin Paradies and Ian Anderson
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (6): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.10844
Published online: 2 April 2012

Knowing if a patient is Indigenous can be key to improving their care

An article published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine advocated the collection of data on the race and ethnic groups of patients by medical practices in the United States. This was part of an initiative to computerise medical records and broaden the collection of demographic data. The authors suggested that such data could be used to detect health disparities, optimise the effectiveness of quality improvement interventions, and generate more reliable data on quality of care and outreach to patients. According to the authors, the “most common and strongest objection” was that doctors (and other practice staff) believed that “knowing a patient’s race and ethnic group is, or should be, clinically irrelevant”.1

  • University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.



The research on which this perspective was based was conducted for the Lowitja Institute and funded by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute. Margaret Kelaher is funded by an Australian Research Council Futures Fellowship.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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  • 7. Scotney A, Guthrie JA, Lokuge K, Kelly PM. “Just ask!” Identifying as Indigenous in mainstream general practice settings: a consumer perspective [letter]. Med J Aust 2010; 192: 609. <MJA full text>


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