Blacks Less Likely To Receive Certain Diagnostic Tests in ED, Study Finds
Blacks, women and the uninsured who seek treatment for chest pain in emergency departments are less likely than others to be given certain diagnostic tests, according to a study published in the February issue of Academic Emergency Medicine, the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. For the report, lead researcher Liliana Pezzin of the Medical College of Wisconsin and colleagues from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine examined 7,068 individuals ages 30 or older who went to an emergency department between 1995 and 2000 with chest pain. The patient data came from the National Hospital Ambulatory Health Care Survey of Emergency Departments. Researchers found that 42% of black men were given heart monitoring tests -- including chest X-rays, heart monitoring, electrocardiograms and pulse oximetry -- after reporting chest pain, compared with 55% of nonblacks. The adjusted probability of black men receiving any of the tests was 25% to 30% lower than that of nonblack men. According to the study, 38% of black women received the tests, compared with 47% of nonblack women. The study also found that 73% of patients who were uninsured received an EKG, compared with 81% of those with private health coverage. The researchers declined to speculate on the reasons for the differences but noted that the goal of the research "was simply to present the data as a catalyst for broader conversation," the AP/Pioneer Press reports (Ramde, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/4). "I don't think we're looking at overt sexism and racism, though these things do exist," co-author Gary Green said. He recommended hospitals monitor such treatment to address disparities and potential bias in the ED, according to the Examiner (Hille, Washington Examiner, 2/2).
The study is available online.