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Stand Up and Be Counted: How the U.S. Census Affects You and Your Patients


2020 has been a year unlike any other. Between the pandemic, protesting systemic racism and the upcoming presidential election, it’s easy to forget about this year’s census, a count of every resident in the United States.

Everyone living in the country is required to participate. However, the census is about more than drawing congressional districts and distributing federal aid. It’s also a crucial aspect of the healthcare industry. These numbers will inform and influence the next ten years of patient care.

Find out what the census means for you and your patients, and make sure everyone you know responds in time.

Counting in the Middle of a Pandemic

Many residents can complete the census online. Filling out the form only takes a few minutes on the official U.S. Census website.

The agency also sends “door-knockers” into the field to count residents in person. They often focus on low-income neighborhoods, those that do not have access to the internet, non-English speaking Americans, and immigrants. It should be noted that the agency is following the latest safety practices to keep workers and participants safe.  

In-person counting started in most areas in July, but the count needs to be finished by the end of September, so the data can reach the president by December 31st. Democrats and activists are pushing to extend the deadline to give census takers more time to count every person in the country. 

Right now, we are less than six weeks away from the deadline and just 64% of households have self-responded to the questionnaire online, by telephone, or through the mail. Census takers have gotten responses from another 8.7% of households.

Census counters have been trying to overcome a shortage of staff, as well as a sense of fear or distrust among immigrant and low-incoming communities, some of whom fear the government may use this information against them. 

As it reads on the Census Bureau’s website, “Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.”

What This Means for the Healthcare Industry

Let’s put all this drama into perspective. An inaccurate census count could be devastating for you and your patients, if not the entire country. This information directs trillions of dollars in spending and federal aid, including money for hospitals, community health centers, as well as popular healthcare programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

Private healthcare companies use this data as well. The age and size of the local population plays a decisive role in the development and design of new healthcare facilities. It’s also used in the creation of other critical public services such as schools, libraries, emergency response teams, roads, and bridges.

Take a look at all the ways this data is used in the industry:

  • Predicting future demand for healthcare services, including how many people may need to visit a doctor, emergency room, or specialist based on their age and location
  • Identifying social determinants of health, such as education, income, pollution, and housing, to improve the wellbeing of the community
  • Identifying possible gaps in insurance coverage to increase access to care
  • Monitoring and studying the quality of existing healthcare services, including patient satisfaction and well-being
  • Identifying and reducing health disparities among certain populations
  • Tracking disability trends and work-related outcomes 

While the pandemic has complicated matters on the ground, advocates say accurate data helps them prepare for and respond to crises like the spread of the coronavirus. 

Big data has become a strategic tool in the business world. Companies large and small should have an accurate idea of who’s living in the community, so they can better serve these individuals. Encourage your patients to stand up and be counted. Visit the official website today to fill out the form.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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