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Hispanics undergo fewer inpatient procedures than non-Hispanic whites hospitalized for the same conditions

Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanic whites hospitalized for the same conditions to receive major therapeutic procedures for over one-third of medical conditions studied, according to researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These treatment differences remained after controlling for differences in patient age, sex, disease severity, insurance plan type, income, and other factors, note Roxanne M. Andrews, Ph.D., and Anne Elixhauser, Ph.D. They examined these ethnic treatment discrepancies using data on hospitalizations from California, Florida, and New York, States that contain half of the U.S. Hispanic population.

Specific treatment patterns emerged. Hispanics were less likely to receive major therapeutic procedures for 38 percent of 63 medical conditions studied. These ranged from coronary artery disease, cancer (breast, colon, cervical, and lung), traumatic conditions ranging from ankle injury to shoulder fracture, gastrointestinal conditions such as hiatal hernia or peptic ulcers, and conditions ranging from epilepsy to cirrhosis of the liver. For only 6 percent of conditions, such as diabetes, pancreatitis, and kidney failure, Hispanics were significantly more likely to receive major procedures than non-Hispanic whites.

This type of ethnic disparity across a broad range of procedures also has been found in studies examining the treatment of blacks compared with whites and raises concerns about appropriateness of care and access to needed health services. The authors call for additional research to study why differences in treatment along racial/ethnic lines occur for some conditions but not for others. Their findings are based on analysis of hospital discharge abstract data on major therapeutic procedures performed for patients aged 17 years and older from the 1993 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP-3) State Inpatient Databases (SID) for California, Florida, and New York.

See "Use of major therapeutic procedures: Are Hispanics treated differently than non-Hispanic whites?" by Drs. Andrews and Elixhauser, in the autumn 2000 Ethnicity & Disease 10, pp. 384-394.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 01-R016) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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