Black Patients More Likely Than Whites To Undergo Surgery At Low-Quality Hospitals In Segregated Regions
Author: Justin Dimick, Joel Ruhter, Mary Vaughan Sarrazin, John D. Birkmeyer
Research has shown that black patients more frequently undergo surgery at low-quality hospitals than do white patients. We assessed the extent to which living in racially segregated areas and living in geographic proximity to low-quality hospitals contribute to this disparity. Using national Medicare data for all patients who underwent one of three high-risk surgical procedures in 2005–08, we found that black patients actually tended to live closer to higher-quality hospitals than white patients did but were 25–58 percent more likely than whites to receive surgery at low-quality hospitals. Racial segregation was also a factor, with black patients in the most segregrated areas 41–96 percent more likely than white patients to undergo surgery at low-quality hospitals. To address these disparities, care navigators and public reporting of comparative quality could steer patients and their referring physicians to higher-quality hospitals, while quality improvement efforts could focus on improving outcomes for high-risk surgery at hospitals that disproportionately serve black patients. Unfortunately, existing policies such as pay-for-performance, bundled payments, and nonpayment for adverse events may divert resources and exacerbate these disparities.