Health Care Disparities Linked to Where Patients Get Care

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Where minority patients get health care can influence the quality of care they receive and may be a major underlying cause of health care disparities, according to an article published today by the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The Commonwealth Fund-supported researchers, who used patient-level data obtained from 123 hospitals, found consistent differences between minority and nonminority patients in the quality of care across eight of 13 quality measures for acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, community-acquired pneumonia, and patient counseling. On many of the measures, lower-performing hospitals tended to treat a higher percentage of minority patients than higher-performing hospitals.

The study is the first to use patient-level measures to assess disparities within and between hospitals. According to the authors, the results suggest that minority patients may be more likely to seek care in hospitals that are underperforming.