Academic Study Finds Large Racial Disparity in Care for Heart Failure Patients

A new study by researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of Colorado finds that for patients admitted to intensive care units in hospitals for heart failure, Black patients are less likely than White patients to be treated by a cardiologist.

The study examined the cases of more than 104,000 patients at 497 hospitals in the United States between 2010 and 2014. The results showed that for patients admitted to intensive care units for heart failure, White patients were 40 percent more likely to be treated by a cardiologist than Black patients. For men, African American were 50 percent less likely than Whites to be treated by a cardiologist.

Previous studies have shown that in-hospital survival rates are higher for heart failure patients who are treated by a cardiologist.

Khadijah Breathett, and assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said that “racial and ethnic disparities in health care delivery remains a persistent systematic problem, and drastic steps are needed to reduce the racial/ethnic and gender health disparities that persist in contemporary care. We could consider rewarding centers that reduce disparities in their respective centers, use innovative techniques to reduce disparities and provide high quality care. We could also consider penalizing centers that provide poor quality care. It is time to change the operations of the U.S. health care system.”

Dr. Breathett is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she majored in biomedical engineering. She holds a medical doctorate from the University of Michigan and later earned a master’s degree in clinical science from the University of Colorado.

The full study, “African Americans Are Less Likely to Receive Care by a Cardiologist During an Intensive Care Unit Admission for Heart Failure,” was published in the May issue of  the journal JACC: Heart Failure, published by the American College of Cardiology. It may be accessed here.

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