In order to be sensitive to someone's cultural ties, we need to know a lot more than which census color is closest to who they are. It also doesn't make sense in terms of compiling stats or being aware of hereditary medical conditions; I once told a medical records person, when asked for my race (with only the census options to choose from), that I declined to answer. She told me it was required, because many diseases run in certain racial groups and not in others. I told her that, yes, I realize this, and I belong to a couple ethnic/racial groups with characteristic diseases, but that the option of "white" wasn't really going to serve this purpose. She didn't get it.
So, I thought MGH's practice was a great idea, until I saw that their "ethnicity" field in the computer wasn't anywhere near comprehensive. It had maybe 30 options (hopefully someone who works at MGH can correct this), and it seemed to focus on mostly Asian and Caribbean ethnicities, with a few others. It didn't seem to be based on anything logical, like ethnic groups that are well-represented in Boston, ethnic groups for whom there are notable hereditary diseases, or ethnic groups for whom sensitivity to traditional medicine practices is particularly important. It didn't list any Jewish groups, and I don't believe there were any European ethnicities other than "European" listed.
It's great that they're wanting to know these things about patients, but why not just have a blank field instead of limiting the choices of valid ethnicities?