Care disparities begin in emergency room

Sept. 27, 2010 at 10:19 PM
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BOSTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Disparities in hospital care among minorities start with how the patient is treated in the emergency room, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital find African-American and Hispanic patients with chest pain were less likely than white patients with similar symptoms to be categorized as needing urgent care.

The study, published in Academic Emergency Medicine, found those with chest pain who were African-American and Hispanic -- or were uninsured or covered by Medicaid -- were significantly less likely than white patients to be treated as an emergency and were less likely to receive an electrocardiogram, cardiac monitoring or measurement of cardiac enzymes.

Dr. Lenny Lopez, the lead author, says American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines specify an immediate electrocardiogram examination for chest pain patients.

"Emergency room triage is the critical step that determines the whole cascade of clinical decisions and testing that happens next, so if patients are misclassified on arrival, they won't receive the care they need when they need it," Lopez said in a statement.

Lopez and colleagues analyzed at 10 years of Emergency Department visits -- of whom 22,000 were patients with chest pain.

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