Recently, Epic and reception staff have been having a lot of discussion about collecting race and ethnicity, primarily regarding patients who have "Patient declined to answer" as their response for their race and ethnicity. Overall, there is a concern that these patients have not truly declined, rather clinical staff were not comfortable asking the question, so they just entered in "Patient declined to answer."
As such, there is a push to re-ask patients who have "Patient declined to answer" as their race and ethnicity, but as it stands within Epic today, we don't have a great way to track the patients who declined the second time, and clearly we do not want to be alienating that population by continuing to ask for their race and ethnicity when they do not want to disclose it.
So, one suggestion that was given was to clear out the race and ethnicity fields in Epic for any patient who has "Patient declined to answer" selected, so that there is a higher comfort level in knowing that they were truly asked when the fields are eventually repopulated.
My question is … Is there any kind of legal implication by removing that data from the patient's chart?
Note: As the system functions today, when the race and ethnicity fields are edited, on the back end there is a stamp on the patient record of "Race Modified" with a date and time, but it doesn't actually track previous value to current value, and we don't have the ability to make a note of why those fields were changed.
There is an audit trail report that could be run after the fields are cleared, and then saved somewhere outside of Epic for future reference if needed. Technically, that report could be re-run within Epic, but Epic only stores audited items for one year, so if we decided to clear out those fields on 1/1/20, the audit trail report for that particular update would only work until 1/1/21.Thanks!