A recent study published in JAMA Network Open found there were differences in where patients were taken by ambulance crews.
Statnews.com found that a patient’s race or ethnicity was often a factor used by emergency teams in determining where they decided to take them to get help.
The researchers, from Boston University School of Medicine, found that black and Hispanic patients were more likely to be transported to safety net hospitals compared to white patients living in the same zip code
Safety net hospitals are those that serve a high proportion of people who are uninsured or on Medicaid, and other vulnerable populations.
Generally, ambulance crews are supposed to take seriously ill patients to the closest hospital that offers the necessary emergency services — such as stroke or trauma care, according to the article.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 29 percent of Hispanics, or 242,100, were on Medicaid in Connecticut during fiscal year 2013.
A healthcare report by ct.gov, showed that while Hispanics made up 14 percent of the state’s population, they accounted for 19 percent of emergency department visits.
The authors of the report said, was the first to look for racial differences in where patients were taken by EMS. They also said the findings highlighted the need for further research into the reasons for the disparity. It did, however, offer one explanation: patients or their families may choose to go to a more distant hospital because it’s where they go for routine primary care.
The study examined Medicare enrollees over the age of 66 who had been taken by EMS to emergency departments between January 2006 and December 2012.
Researchers also looked at instances where the patients or family drove to the emergency department. The study looked at 864,750 Medicaid enrollees from 4,175 zip codes.
For each zip code, the most frequent destination among whites was used as a reference emergency department. White patients were taken to the reference emergency department 61.3 percent of the time, but for Hispanics the number was 2.5 percent lower.
The study found a similar pattern for patients who arrived at the emergency departments on their own — a finding that supports that patient choice is influencing emergency department destination, according to the article.
The study suggests that Hispanic patients regularly seek care at safety-net hospitals.