New state data shows that Black and Hispanic residents are using hospital services at higher rates than other groups, potentially pointing to uneven challenges accessing primary care and differences in the quality of care received at the hospital.
In a report issued Wednesday, the Center for Health Information and Analysis said while many Massachusetts residents struggle to access high quality, affordable, and timely health care, systemic inequities and institutional racism exacerbate these issues for many communities of color.
As a result, non-Hispanic Black patients account for 8.2 percent of inpatient discharges and 12.3 percent of emergency department visits, though they only account for 6.7 percent of the state’s population. Despite the pandemic, the racial and ethnic demographics of both inpatient discharges and emergency department visits remained relatively stable during the 12 months ending June 2019 through the 12 months ending June 2021.
Patients identifying as non-Hispanic Black also had the highest rate of returning to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged, at 17.8 percent, compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Statewide, the readmission rate was 16 percent.
Non-Hispanic Black patients also stayed in the hospital the longest, at 5.9 days on average, compared to 5.2 days on average statewide. Additionally, 39.6 percent of patients with emergency department visits that lasted longer than four hours identified as Black — higher than other racial and ethnic groups.
Amy Rosenthal, executive director of advocacy organization Health Care For All, also said the results are not surprising, given what the organization hears daily on its consumer assistance help line.
“Black and Latinx residents are more likely to report challenges affording the routine preventive care they need to avoid more costly emergency and acute care later,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “Reducing or eliminating copays for treatments like insulin, asthma inhalers and heart medications would help keep residents healthy and out of the emergency room, and start to address these inequities.”
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