Study finds disparity in critical care deaths between non-minority and minority hospitals

January 17, 2020

Jan. 17, 2020--While deaths steadily declined over a decade in intensive care units at hospitals with few minority patients, in ICUs with large numbers of minority patients, there was less improvement, according to new research published online in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The disparity was most pronounced among critically ill African American patients.

In "Temporal Trends in Critical Care Outcomes in United States Minority Serving Hospitals," lead author John Danziger, MD, MPhil, and colleagues report on their analysis of nearly 1.1 million patients hospitalized at more than 200 hospitals that participated in the telehealth platform provided by Philips Healthcare from 2006-16.

In additional to studying mortality, the researchers looked at length of stay in the ICU and in the hospital. The data showed a similar pattern of improvement over the decade at non-minority serving hospitals and less improvement at minority serving hospitals.

"We wanted to know whether racial inequalities, previously described across a range of health care environments, extend into the highest level of care, namely the ICU," said Dr. Danziger, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

For the purposes of this study, the authors defined minority serving hospitals two ways. The first definition defined such hospitals as having twice as many minority patients as expected based on the percentage of African American or Hispanic living in the region according to the U.S. Census. The second defined a minority serving hospital as having more than 25 percent of its ICU patients identify as African American or Hispanic. The different definitions yielded similar results.

The study found that over a decade:To avoid biasing results, the researchers took into account a range of variables, including age, gender, admission diagnosis, severity of illness and co-existing health problems. They found that minority serving hospitals tended to care for younger, but sicker patients.

The authors said that their study could not determine whether the health disparities they observed "reflect caring for an increasing disadvantaged population" or differences in hospital resources. The researchers did find that patients at minority service hospitals had to wait longer to be admitted to the ICU from the emergency room than patients who were treated in non-minority serving hospitals, suggesting that differences in resources contributed to the findings of their study.

Still, said Dr. Danziger, "The observation that large numbers of critically ill minorities are cared for in poorer performing ICUs gives us an important target for focused research efforts and additional resources to help close the health care divide amongst different minorities in the United States."
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About the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

The AJRCCM is a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Thoracic Society. The Journal takes pride in publishing the most innovative science and the highest quality reviews, practice guidelines and statements in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. With an impact factor of 16.494, it is one of the highest ranked journals in pulmonology. Editor: Jadwiga Wedzicha, MD, professor of respiratory medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute (Royal Brompton Campus), Imperial College London, UK.

About the American Thoracic Society

Founded in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is the world's leading medical association dedicated to advancing pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The Society's 15,000 members prevent and fight respiratory disease around the globe through research, education, patient care and advocacy. The ATS publishes three journals, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology and the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

The ATS will hold its 2020 International Conference, May 15-20, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where world-renowned experts will share the latest scientific research and clinical advances in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine.

American Thoracic Society

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