Racial Discrepancies at Low-Quality Hospitals in Segregated Regions

By: Caitlin Conk

Blog Category: Race & Healthcare

Research has shown that black patients more frequently undergo surgery at low-quality hospitals than do white patients. Researchers focused on racially segregated areas, where there is a close proximity of both high and low-quality hospitals. After analyzing national Medicare data for all patients who underwent one of three high-risk surgical procedures in 2005-08, researchers found black patients were more likely than white patients to undergo surgery in low-quality hospitals for all three surgical procedures. Blacks were also less likely than whites to undergo surgery at high-quality hospitals for all three operations. Researchers noted the racial disparities were not due to a lack of geographic proximity to higher-quality hospitals. Black patients actually live closer to high-quality hospitals performing these procedures than white patients.

What is causing this racial disparity? Researchers believe it has to do with the history of residential segregation. Black patients living in regions with high degrees of racial segregation were even more likely to undergo surgery in low-quality hospitals. Whereas, blacks living in regions with low degrees of residential racial segregation were no more likely than whites to receive care in low-quality hospitals.

How can we fix these disparities? Researchers suggest two different policies to merge the racial disparity. First, strategies that would direct black patients to higher-quality hospitals need to be put into place. Second, an improvement to care at low-quality hospitals is critical. Until these policies are put into place, the racial disparities in health care will continue throughout our nation.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Justin Dimick et al., Black Patients More Likely Than Whites to Undergo Surgery At Low-Quality Hospitals In Segregated Regions, 32 Health Aff. 1046 (2013), available at http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/6/1046.full?sid=83af67f6-c05c-4690-a9ad-0ba3ac880120.

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