Cardiologists underestimate racial and ethnic disparities in care

NEW YORK, March 15 Only one-third of cardiologists surveyed believe racial and ethnic disparities in care occur often in the United States despite extensive documentation of the problem, according to a survey published in a special disparities issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the 2004 Rand Corporation survey, 34 percent of cardiologists agreed that differences in care based solely on race or ethnicity occur in overall health care. Thirty-three percent also agreed such disparities occur specifically in cardiovascular care. However, only 12 percent agreed that disparities existed in their own hospitals, and only 5 percent said their own patients were treated differently depending on their race or ethnicity.

"The most striking finding was the really big disconnect between what physicians report about the system in general and what they report in their own hospital and in the patients they treat," said lead investigator Nicole Lurie, M.D., M.S.P.H., the Paul O'Neill Alcoa professor of policy analysis at the RAND Corporation in Arlington, Va.

"For disparities to be occurring at the magnitude they are, they can't all be somebody else's patients. If we really want to make a difference, helping people look at their own practices and hospitals is paramount," she said.

Researchers randomly e-mailed invitations to participate in the Web-based survey to 1,371 members of the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Association of Black Cardiologists and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. A total of 344 practicing cardiologists completed the survey. Of the 323 respondents who provided demographic information, 83 percent were male, 72 percent were white, 72 percent graduated medical school before 1985 and 58 percent practiced in a setting in which less than a quarter of the patients were racial or ethnic minorities.

Results indicated that physicians who were female, or black, or who treated a large

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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