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Black inpatients at higher risk for poor safety outcomes


Resources instead of penalties?

Dr. Gangopadhyaya said the second phase of the research will compare safety outcomes between Black and White patients in the same hospital. Those results will shed more light on what’s driving the differences in risk on safety measures.

He acknowledged that, particularly in an emergency, there is little choice involved with which hospital a patient enters. Patients typically go to a hospital in their neighborhood. And it’s well established that ZIP codes can determine health care outcomes.

But he suspects the differences cannot be explained simply by socioeconomic factors.

He pointed out that previous research has found disparities among Black and White patients in the same neighborhoods.

In one part of this study, researchers narrowed the comparison to Black and White adults with Medicare coverage, with similar provider networks and reimbursement structure, to test whether insurance was playing a significant role.

“Even among that group, you still see the persistent differences in the safety risks driven by the hospitals patients are admitted to,” Dr. Gangopadhyaya said.

He suggests two policy approaches to address the gaps: Either find ways for high-quality hospitals to reach more people of color, or find out what’s keeping the low-quality hospitals from implementing the practices that are effective in high-quality hospitals.

Currently, the ACA has penalties in place when hospitals score low for specific safety risks, he noted, saying that approach doesn’t appear to be working.

“Perhaps instead of penalizing hospitals, we might want to consider providing resources to hospitals that help them better adopt the successful protocols in their high-quality counterparts,” he said.

Dr. Gangopadhyaya has disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Dr. Blackstock has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article first appeared on

This article was updated 4/2/21.


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