The findings indicate that fewer Black patients would have died from COVID-19 if they were admitted to different hospitals.
Black patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were more likely to die or be discharged to hospice than white patients due to hospital quality, according to a study published by JAMA Network Open.
In fact, the Penn Medicine researchers, who conducted the study in partnership with OptumLabs, found that if Black patients were admitted to the same hospitals as white patients, their mortality rate would decrease by 10 percent.
The study evaluated 44,217 adult Medicare beneficiaries admitted with COVID-19 to 1,188 hospitals across 41 states between January 1, 2020 through September 21, 2020. About 35,000 patients were white and nearly 11,000 were Black. The overall mortality rate was nearly 12.9 percent for white patients and 13.5 percent for Black patients. Though researchers partially attribute the increased mortality rate among Black patients to lower income levels and increased comorbidities, they underscore that many of these factors are due to continued racial inequalities.
“Our study reveals that Black patients have worse outcomes largely because they tend to go to worse-performing hospitals,” said David Asch, M.D., executive director of Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Innovation, in a statement. “Because patients tend to go to hospitals near where they live, these new findings tell a story of racial residential segregation and reflect our country’s racial history that has been highlighted by the pandemic.”
Researchers asserted that segregation practices such as redlining have forced Black people into low-income neighborhoods and have caused economic hardships, such as access to health care, for decades.
“It’s intolerable that we live in a society where Black patients are more likely to go to hospitals where death is also more likely,” said Asch in the study announcement. “Centuries of racism got us to this level of residential segregation, but a step we can take today is to change policies so that all hospitals are not so dependent on local resources to maintain their quality. COVID-19 has provided a lens through which we can see how much more we must travel to reach justice.”