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Patient's Race Doesn't Affect Emergency Room Care

Trauma treatment similar regardless of ethnicity, U.S. study finds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The care of trauma patients in the United States is roughly the same no matter what the patient's race or ethnicity, a new study finds.

"Ethnic disparities in our health care system have been well documented in treatment of several diseases, such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, renal failure, acute appendicitis and organ transplant," write researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. "These disparities range from limited access to health care to lower use of evidenced-based therapies and a lower rate of invasive procedures."

For this study, Dr. Shahid Shafi and Dr. Larry M. Gentilello analyzed data from almost 8,600 trauma patients included in a 2003 national survey. The patients were divided into three groups: white (6,106); black (1,406), and Hispanic (1,051).

The researchers found that minority trauma patients were more likely to be younger, less likely to be insured, and more likely to have been treated at a public hospital than white patients. But minority and white patients were similar in sex, method of injury, and injury severity. There were no significant differences between white and minority patients in terms of intensity of emergency department assessment, monitoring, treatment or release.

The study appears in the November issue of the Archives of Surgery.

"The obvious implication of the lack of ethnic disparities in emergency department management is that other causes of ethnic disparities in functional outcomes of trauma patients should be sought. These may include quality of inpatient care, use of high-cost medications and procedures, access to acute and long-term rehabilitation services and follow-up after discharge from acute care hospitalization," the researchers wrote. "It is also entirely possible that the disparities in outcomes have little to do with quality of medical care received."

The researchers suggested that other factors, "such as the socioeconomic status, educational level, employment and insurance status, rural vs. urban location, language barriers, and cultural and religious beliefs and practices, need to be studied further to understand differences between various ethnic groups."

More information

The U.S. National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities has more about health disparities.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Nov. 17, 2008

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