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August 24, 2023

Report breaks down health care use by race

Photo | Edd Cote Healthcare workers at a UMass Memorial Health Care COVID-19 testing center.

Black patients had disproportionately higher acute care utilization compared to patients of other racial and ethnic groups, and Hispanic patients visited emergency departments at a disproportionately higher rate compared to White patients, according to a new state report on inequities in health care.

"Barriers to care in the appropriate setting adversely impacts patient outcomes and often results in increased downstream costs to the system," Lauren Peters, executive director of the Center for Health Information and Analysis, said. "This report reveals key differences in hospital utilization across racial and ethnic groups that warrant further examination and policy intervention as part of our collective efforts to advance health equity in the Commonwealth."

The independent agency's report, the latest in its health equity series, stated that "systemic inequities and institutional racism faced by historically marginalized groups" exacerbate problems associated with residents accessing high quality, affordable and timely care.

The report examined acute care case mix data, including inpatient discharges and emergency department visits from acute care hospitals, for the period of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, which overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers determined that Black patients experienced longer average lengths of stay and higher readmission and revisit rates, with their 8.2 percent share of inpatient discharges and 12.3 percent share of emergency department visits exceeding their 6.7 percent share of the Massachusetts population.

Hispanic patients accounted for a lower share of inpatient visits (9.6 percent) and a higher share of emergency department visits (16.8 percent) relative to their share of the state population (12.4 percent).

Asian patients accounted for a lower share of inpatient discharges (3.1 percent) and emergency department visits (2.3 percent) relative to their share of the population (6.8 percent), and the lowest readmission and revisit rates (14.5 percent and 21.9 percent) compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

The report said many residents from historically marginalized groups "have limited access to health care in the appropriate settings, receive lower quality care or care from underresourced facilities, or underutilize care when necessary, partly attributable to systemic inequities and institutional racism."

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