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Heart Attack Guidelines Close Racial Gaps in Hospital Care
Date:5/17/2010

But they're not enough to guarantee complete parity in treatment, expert says

MONDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitals using guidelines from the American Heart Association have been able to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities when caring for heart attack patients, a new study finds.

Called Get With The Guidelines, the program shows that disparities in care can be eliminated while at the same time improving overall care, the researchers say.

"Using a system that provides feedback about the use of performance measures decreases racial disparities over time," said lead researcher Dr. Mauricio G. Cohen, an associate professor of medicine in the cardiovascular division of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

"While overall care improved over time, the difference in care of minority patients started to decrease over time and by the end of the study these difference were eliminated," he added.

The report is published in the May 17 online edition of Circulation.

For the study, Cohen's group looked at the medical records of 142,593, white, black and Hispanic patients being treated for heart attack in 443 hospitals that use the guidelines. Currently, almost 1,500 of the over 7,000 U.S. hospitals use the Get With The Guidelines program, according to the American Heart Association.

The guidelines for treating heart attack include therapies such as giving medications like aspirin and blood pressure drugs, and starting patients on statins to lower cholesterol. The guidelines also call for helping people change their lifestyles, for example, by stopping smoking.

The researchers looked at the overall rate of patients getting a combination of the treatments for which they were eligible, known as "defect-free care." At the start of the study in 2002, Cohen's team saw a gap in defect-free care for blacks, but by 2007 it was gone.

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