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African-Americans More Likely to Be Readmitted to Hospital

African-Americans More Likely to Be Readmitted to Hospital

Older African-Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.

Published February 16, 2011

After undergoing hospital treatment for three common conditions, older African-Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. While this information, taken from a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, doesn’t sound terribly alarming, it is. What it suggests is tremendous gaps in care, with Blacks being discharged without receiving thorough care far more often than whites.

On average, Black senior citizens have a 13 percent greater chance of being readmitted to hospital care than whites. What’s more, seniors treated in hospitals serving primarily minority populations have a 23 percent greater chance of readmission after 30 days. This a staggering difference in treatment according to Dr. Karen Joynt, a health policy fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"There are significant racial disparities in readmission rates in this country," she says. "We found that both race and site of care mattered. The next step is to find out why this disparity exists.”

Regardless of race, 20 percent of all seniors being discharged from the hospital are readmitted after 30 days, meaning there’s a problem with care for all patients. That Blacks in minority hospitals are even worse off, then, is especially frightening.

"Hospital discharge is a really vulnerable time. Going home from the hospital often requires medication changes, diet changes, and lifestyle changes. Even in the best-case scenario, one in five is being readmitted," says Joynt.

Though the study couldn’t pin down exactly why Black patients were especially susceptible to readmission, Joynt theorizes that poor aftercare—like regular, transitional check-ups—may be to blame.

This study also gives more clues as to why Blacks die earlier than whites: They’re simply not getting the care they need as often as they should be.

 

Image:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Written by Cord Jefferson

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