Study Finds That Racial Disparity in Heart Attack Mortality Impacted by Hospital Overcrowding

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco finds that African Americans who suffer heart attacks have a higher mortality rate than Whites who suffer a heart attack. This is the case, according to the study, simply because the ambulances carrying Black patients are more likely to be diverted to a hospital further away due to overcrowded conditions at the hospital nearest to the heart attack victim or patients were treated in emergency rooms that were so busy that they were diverting other patients. In either event, the Black patients probably were not receiving the same quality of timely care that patients received who were not involved in ambulance diversion scenarios.

The study analyzed the records of more than 91,000 people who suffered a heart attack in California between 2001 and 2011. They found that Black patients were 19 percent more likely to die within 90 days than White patients. And 16 percent of Black patients and only 10 percent of White patients received care at emergency rooms that were diverting patients due to overcrowded conditions.

Lead author of the study, Renee Hsia, professor of emergency medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, said that “these findings suggest that Black patients could be experiencing poorer quality care, delayed care or a combination of those factors. Efforts to increase quality of care and reduce emergency department crowding – specifically in these communities – may help close these disparities.”

The full study, “Impact Of Ambulance Diversion: Black Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction Had Higher Mortality Than Whites,” was published in the journal Health Affairs. It may be accessed here.

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