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News Study Shows Reporting Differences For Minority Hospital Patients

New research suggests that hospital staff were significantly more likely to report events that were harmful to patients when the individual in question was white, according to Modern Healthcare. The study, published in the Journal of Patient Safety, found that while white patients made up of 39.8 percent of the studied hospital system’s patient base, they accounted for 47.4 percent of the recorded patient safety events. These results come amid other reports of health care inequities, like the recent investigation on how minority patients are more likely to undergo diabetes-related amputations that Consumers for Quality Care has highlighted.

The Journal of Patient Safety study examined data from a ten-hospital system in the District of Columbia and Maryland. The safety incidents, which hospital staff voluntarily reported, occurred over a two-year period between 2015 and 2017.  Reported issues include skin/tissue issues, falls, and line and tube draining issues.

Across the hospital system, white patients made up a larger percentage of incidents reported than percentage of patients, the opposite was true for minorities. Black patients made up 52.3 percent of patients but only accounted for 46.3 percent of reported incidents. Other minorities made up 7.9 percent of patients but just 6.2 percent of reported safety incidents.

The rates of reporting varied across individual hospitals within the system. Some of the differences were even more drastic. At one hospital, while white patients only made up 26 percent of the patient base, they accounted for 42 percent of reported safety events. While two-thirds of the hospital’s patients were black, they were only involved in 51 percent of the reported incidents.

Moreover, researchers found that the kinds of safety events recorded differed by race.

White patients were the only group that experienced surgery/procedure events in the top five most common events. Blacks and other minorities experienced diagnosis/treatment events in the top five while whites did not. Other minority patients were the only group that experienced maternal/childbirth events in the top five.

The study’s researchers said this study alone could not determine why white patients had more recorded incidents. However, they did note that implicit bias could influence hospital staff’s likelihood of reporting safety incidents for minority patients.

[They] are working on follow-up studies to pin down reasons for the disparity in reporting by race. They currently are examining medical charts at one of the system's hospitals to see if they show similar disparities by race in the rates of harmful safety events.


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