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Report: Black-white disparities in care

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're in a hospital and you suffer a heart attack, you'd think your chances of survival might be pretty good. A new report says it may depend on the color of skin.When a patient goes into cardiac arrest in a hospital, everyone races into resuscitation mode.

"The patient's heart is stopped, they've stopped breathing and there's no electrical or mechanical activity of the heart," said researcher Dr. Paul S. Chan.

Researchers felt these in-hospital emergency events provided a unique opportunity to look at whether medical treatment and ultimately survival differed between black and white patents.

In a report provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Chan and his colleagues found black patients had a slightly more than 25 percent survival rate while white patients survived more than 37 percent of the time.

"Twelve percent is huge, especially when we think of survival differences between black and white patients for other medical conditions," said Dr. Chan. "I can think of no other medical condition where the survival difference is that great."

But when researchers took into account which hospitals those patients were treated in, the gap substantially narrowed.

"Some hospitals are better performers when it comes to resuscitating and providing the best possible care for patients with cardiac arrest," said Dr. Chan.

Doctors say finding ways to improve the quality of resuscitation and post care in these under performing hospitals will be crucial to saving more lives.

"This is not really about black patients only," said Dr. Chan. "It's a question of improving the care at those lower quality and lower performing hospitals so that all patients, including white patients and black patients, can improve their survival after a cardiac arrest in a hospital setting."

Researchers also measured the amount of aggressiveness of resuscitation on each patients. They found no differences by race.

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