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Does Race Play a Part in ICU Outcomes?

HealthDay News
by -- Kayla McKiski
Updated: Feb 3rd 2020

new article illustration

MONDAY, Feb. 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Deaths at intensive care units (ICUs) have steadily declined in the last decade, but the same cannot be said for ICUs with large numbers of minority patients.

In a new study, researchers analyzed over 1 million patients at more than 200 U.S. hospitals from 2006 to 2016. Not only was there less improvement in mortality rates in hospitals with large numbers of minority patients, but the length of stay didn't improve either.

"We wanted to know whether racial inequalities, previously described across a range of health care environments, extend into the highest level of care, namely the ICU," said study author Dr. John Danziger, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Minority hospitals were defined by the authors as hospitals with twice as many minority patients as expected demographically or a hospital with more than 25% of ICU patients of black or Hispanic origin.

Non-minority hospitals showed a 2% decline each year in ICU deaths. Meanwhile, minority hospitals showed no decline in the first few years. In addition, a large number of critically ill black and Hispanic patients were treated at only 14 of the 200 hospitals.

Age, gender, diagnosis, illness severity and other variables were also analyzed in the study, to avoid bias.

The study could not determine whether the disparities reflected differences in hospital resources or level of care for disadvantaged groups. However, wait times for the ICU were also longer at minority hospitals.

The research was published recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"The observation that large numbers of critically ill minorities are cared for in poorer performing ICUs gives us an important target for focused research efforts and additional resources to help close the health care divide amongst different minorities in the United States," Danziger said in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information has more on health care and minority groups.