Black Heart Attack Patients Are More Likely to Be Diverted to Distant Emergency Rooms

UCSFA new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, found that older African American patients who have heart emergencies are more likely than their White peers to have their ambulance diverted to a hospital farther away from their home due to overcrowding at the nearest hospital.

The authors examined ambulance diversion logs from 26 California counties between 2001 and 2011 involving Medicare patients who had suffered heart attacks. They compared diversion time between hospitals serving a high volume of Black patients and other hospitals. The data showed that patients were more often diverted from hospitals with a large percentage of Black patients due to emergency room overcrowding. This can result in significant delays in treatment that produce disparate results in cardiac care and long-term survival prospects, according to the authors.

Renee Hsia, professor of emergency medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, states that “we have definitive evidence that minority-serving hospitals, or hospitals that serve a high proportion of Black patients, tend to experience higher levels of emergency department crowding.”

The study, “Do Patients Hospitalised in High-Minority Hospitals Experience More Diversion and Poorer Outcomes? A Retrospective Multivariate Analysis of Medicare Patients in California,” was published on the online journal BMJ Open. It may be viewed here.

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