If you're black and you're having a heart attack in an American hospital, the care you will receive is now almost as good as if you were white. There's an 86 percent chance you will be undergoing cardiac catheterization within 90 minutes of arriving to the emergency department—which is the standard of quality care. If you were white, that chance would be 92 percent, a mere 6 percent difference.
If you're black and you have pneumonia, there's a 94 percent chance you'll be given antibiotics within six hours of arriving at the hospital. That's almost as good as the 96 percent chance if you were white.
The chance you'll be given a flu shot is 90 percent. Pretty much the same as the 93 percent chance if you were white. Pretty much the same.
These numbers were just published as part of a massive study in the New England Journal of Medicine, led by Amal Trivedi, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University. The researchers reviewed more than 12 million hospitalizations nationwide between 2005 and 2010 and describe the results as "heartening."
They are heartening in that the numbers represent improvements. In 2005, the difference between white and black heart-attack patients getting timely cardiac catheterization was more than double what it was in 2010. Other metrics improved similarly. Disparities in medical care provided to white and black patients in U.S. hospitals over the five-year period narrowed by 8.5 to 11.8 percent across various metrics, and by 6.2 to 15.1 percent between white and Hispanic patients. Trivedi and colleagues attribute their findings to more equitable care for patients treated in the same hospital, as well as performance improvements among hospitals that disproportionately serve minority patients.