TUESDAY, May 1, 2018 -- Among heart failure patients, black people are much less likely than white people to have their care overseen by a cardiologist, a new study finds.
Previous research has shown that receiving care primarily from a cardiologist improves in-hospital survival rates for heart failure patients.
In the new study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 105,000 heart failure patients admitted to intensive care units at 497 U.S. hospitals from 2010 to 2014. About 20 percent of the patients were black and the rest were white.
Overall, white patients were 40 percent more likely than black patients to receive primary care from a cardiologist, the findings showed. Black men were 50 percent less likely than white men to do so, and black women were 30 percent less likely than white women.
The study was published April 30 in the journal JACC: Heart Failure.
"Both patients and physicians should know that racial disparities exist in health care," said study author Dr. Khadijah Breathett.
"Patients must be their own advocates and not fear getting a second opinion, especially when they believe they are not being heard," said Breathett, who is an assistant professor of medicine, in the division of cardiology, at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine in Tucson.
"Physicians should adhere to guideline recommendations, advocate for underserved populations and be aware of implicit biases that may adversely affect clinical management," she said in a journal news release.
"Bias in clinical decision-making has contributed to disparate treatment in racial and ethnic minorities. We must consider that it may be present," Breathett added.
Dr. Christopher O'Connor, journal editor-in-chief and chief executive officer of Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, said this study "highlights the need for more research on why we continue to observe racial differences with the receipt of optimal care in the U.S. health care system."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on heart failure.
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