While researchers did not have baseline information, they were disappointed by the general lack of awareness of disparities. Several organizations have been spotlighting this issue. A report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the American College of Cardiology assessing racial and ethnic disparities was released in 2002. Results were published on the web and directly mailed to about 5,000 cardiologists. The American Heart Association also held a Minority Health Summit in 2003, the results of which are reported in this issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Encouraging physicians to examine their own quality of care stratified by race/ethnicity data may help increase awareness, Lurie said.
"It's great to have solid national and statewide data, but one of the important ways to increase awareness of disparities is to help health plans, doctors and nurses look in their own back yards and understand what goes on in their own hospitals and practices," she said.
"Even if awareness is slow to increase, some data suggest that improving quality of care through the use of practice guidelines can play an important role in addressing racial and ethnic disparities," the researchers note.
The American Heart Association already has such a program in place: Get With the GuidelinesSM (GWTG), a quality improvement program focused on patients with ischemic heart disease, stroke or congestive heart failure. It has been shown that GTWG can improve evidenced-based care in hospitals and appears to reduce disparities in care as well.