Black patients were more likely to die of COVID-19 largely due to inferior hospitals

By | June 22, 2021

Dive Brief:

  • Researchers found that Black patients admitted with COVID-19 were 11% more likely to die than their White counterparts after adjusting for patient and clinical characteristics, according to a recent study in JAMA Network Open.
  • Black patients were more likely to die largely because of where they received care — at hospitals that performed worse than those that treated White patients, according to the study that analyzed more than 44,000 Medicare Advantage admissions to more than 1,180 hospitals across 41 states.
  • The study highlights that where people live influences where they receive care, as many tend to seek care close to home. For many years, Black Americans were denied housing in some areas due to “redlining” policies, or those meant to keep Black people out of certain neighborhoods, which led to segregation in cities and unequal access to resources.

Dive Insight:

As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the U.S., it was clear last year that Black Americans were bearing the brunt of the deadly virus. Black Americans were more likely to get sick, hospitalized and die than White patients.

In the U.S., more than 600,000 people have died as a result of the pandemic, which has infected more than 178 million worldwide.

This latest study sought to examine what role, if any, the hospitals to which Black patients were admitted influenced their deaths.

The authors said that people tend to wrongly assume that death rates are higher due to chronic health problems among certain populations.

“It’s intolerable that we live in a society where Black patients are more likely to go to hospitals where death is also more likely,” said David Asch, one of the study’s authors and the executive director of Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Innovation, said in a statement.

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The deadly virus arrived in the U.S. at a time of racial reckoning, an issue hospital leaders have been grappling with.

Then the pandemic laid bare the inequities in the U.S. as people of color were more likely to die as a result of the virus. The authors said this latest study illustrates the “long shadow” unequal policies continue to have in the U.S., pointing toward housing policy that ultimately segregated neighborhoods, leaving Black people with unequal access to resources, opportunities and housing.

The study also ran simulations and found that if those same Black patients were admitted to the same hospitals as White patients, the health outcomes would be more equal.

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