Black Patients are More Likely Than White Patients to be in Hospitals with Worse Patient Safety Conditions

A nurse speaks to a hospital patient in her room.

Black and White adult patients experience different patient safety outcomes, some of which can be attributed to differences in the quality of hospital patients' access, according to a new analysis assessing the state of racial disparities in the quality and safety of inpatient care.

 

The Issue

Black and White patients receive different standards of care in the United States. Identifying and reducing racial disparities in the quality of health care is a necessary step toward reversing the effects of systemic racism on racial health equity in the United States.

Key Findings

This brief assesses the state of racial disparities in the quality of inpatient care using complete hospital discharge records and 11 patient safety quality indicators that measure rates of adverse patient safety events. The analysis finds that Black patients experienced significantly worse quality of care in six of the 11 patient safety indicators compared to White patients, including five out of seven surgery-related safety indicators. Additionally:

  • Black patients are less likely to be admitted to “high-quality” hospitals, which according to the data are best at minimizing patient safety risks.

  • For nine of 11 patient safety indicators, including six of seven surgery-related indicators, Black patients were significantly less likely to be admitted into high-quality hospitals.

  • Black patients were significantly less likely than White patients to be admitted into hospitals classified as high-quality for two or more general patient safety indicators.

  • Black patients were 7.9 percentage points more likely than White patients to be admitted into hospitals considered low-quality across all seven surgery-related patient safety measures and 4.9 percentage points less likely than White patients to be admitted into hospitals achieving high patient safety on all seven surgery-related measures.

Conclusion

Lack of access to high-quality hospital care due to continued racial inequities drives worse health outcomes for Black individuals in the United States. Authors urge policymakers to actively support policies that help address racial inequities.  

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