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Asian-Pacific Islanders are more likely to die from serious, but treatable, hospital complications

Asian-Pacific Islanders are 16 percent more likely than whites to die from serious, but treatable, complications in U.S. hospitals, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Asian-Pacific Islanders also experience significantly higher rates of many non-fatal complications and injuries. The approximately 12.5 million Asian-Pacific Islanders in the United States include native Hawaiians, Samoans, and people who trace their origin to countries such as China, Viet-Nam, the Philippines, and India.

Experts who study health care quality believe Asian-Pacific Islanders may experience potentially avoidable complications more for several possible reasons, including being cared for in hospitals that provide less quality care; not receiving the same quality of care as other patients; having cultural or linguistic issues when communicating with doctors and nurses that may affect their care; or being sicker and more vulnerable to complications than other patients.

AHRQ's new analysis also found that, compared with white patients, Asian-Pacific Islanders having surgery were:

  • 42 percent more likely to develop a blood infection (sepsis).
  • 34 percent more likely to suffer kidney failure.
  • 21 percent more likely to bleed internally or develop a large blood clot.
  • 14 percent more likely to need a ventilator to breathe.

In addition, Asian-Pacific Islander patients hospitalized for surgical as well as medical care are 12 percent more likely to experience accidental punctures or cuts. The report uses statistics from a special disparities analysis file created from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) 2005 State Inpatient Databases (SID). This file is designed to provide national estimates on disparities for the National Healthcare Disparities Report using weighted records from a sample of hospitals with good reporting of race and ethnicity from 23 States. The sample is designed to approximate a 40 percent stratified sample of short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

For more information, go to Statistical Brief No. 53: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Hospital Patient Safety Events, 2005, at

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