Oct. 29 (UPI) -- For heart failure patients, skin color may play a role in the quality of care they receive, a new study suggests.
In an analysis published Tuesday in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston found that black and Latin Americans admitted to the facility with the condition were less likely to be evaluated and treated by physicians in its specialized cardiac care unit than white patients with the same symptoms.
The study is just the latest to highlight racial disparities in healthcare services in the United States.
"Our results highlight that structural inequities are pervasive throughout healthcare delivery systems," Lauren Eberly, a fellow in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, told UPI. "We hope other healthcare systems, institutions, and clinicians will be equally committed to addressing inequities in their own contexts, systems, and care settings."
"With this work, we wanted to encourage other researchers, clinicians, administrators to see the societal and structural forces... and understand how such [they] can lead to differential access to care and disparate outcomes. Until we feel comfortable naming structural racism, and treating it as the public health crisis it is, we will be unable to make meaningful steps towards equitable care delivery," Eberly said.
The researchers reviewed hospital admissions and discharges at Brigham & Women's over a 10-year period, from 2008 to 2017, and identified nearly 2,000 patients treated for heart failure who self-identified as white, black or Latin.
Patients who self-identified as black were 9 percent less likely than white patients to be admitted to specialized cardiac care units, while those who self-identified as Latin were 17 percent less likely than white patients to be admitted to specialized heart units.
Women and those older than 75 years of age were also more likely to be treated on a general medicine floor than males or younger patients.
The authors noted that the findings were particularly troubling, given that admission to a heart specialty unit was associated with a 16 percent lower rate of hospital readmission within 30 days.
Readmission during the first month following discharge may be a sign of poorly managed disease, and it often foreshadows worse overall prognosis in heart failure, the researchers added.
"These findings are unfortunately just one example of a long history of inequitable quality of healthcare and access to healthcare by race in our country," Dr. Eberly noted. "We urge healthcare policy makers and administrators to recognize how our current healthcare systems promote the interests of dominant group members, and recommend that care delivery be designed to prioritize the care of our most marginalized patients."