Blacks Readmitted to Hospital More Than Whites: Study

Serena Gordon, U.S. News & World Report, February 15, 2011

After leaving the hospital for treatment of three common conditions, older black people are more likely to be readmitted within 30 days than older white people, a new study finds.

Overall, older blacks have 13 percent greater odds of being readmitted to the hospital, recent research suggests, while patients treated at hospitals that primarily serve minority populations have 23 percent greater odds of readmission within 30 days.

“There are significant racial disparities in readmission rates in this country,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Karen Joynt, a health policy fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“We found that both race and site of care mattered. The next step is to find out why this disparity exists,” she said.

{snip}

Using national Medicare data that included more than 3 million hospital discharges for heart attack, congestive heart failure and pneumonia, the researchers compared the rate of readmissions for blacks and for whites. To conform with other research, the researchers considered any non-black patients as white, which means that Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans were placed in the white category for this study.

{snip}

Of the 3 million plus discharges, 276,681 (8.7 percent) were for black patients, and 2,886,330 (91.3 percent) were for white patients. About 40 percent of the black patients and 6 percent of white patients received care at hospitals that primarily served minorities.

{snip}

Overall, readmission rates were 24.8 percent for blacks and 22.6 percent for whites, which means black patients have 13 percent greater odds of readmission within 30 days after discharge, according to the study.

Among those who had been admitted for heart attack, black patients from minority-serving hospitals had the highest readmission rates–26.4 percent, according to the study. That translated to 35 percent greater odds of readmission for this group.

The results of the study are published in the Feb. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Joynt said this study wasn’t able to tease out the reasons that these disparities exist, but said that less access to transitional care may play a role. {snip}

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