Racially diverse hospitals have lower outcomes disparities

African-American patients fare better in hospitals that treat a racially diverse population than in mostly-white hospitals. Furthermore, they end up paying less for their care, according to a report in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, led by Philip Okafor, M.D., studied outcomes for black patients diagnosed with five common gastrointestinal issues in mostly-white and diverse hospitals. They found that while black patients were overall about 19 percent more likely than white patients to die or experience serious complications, when they were treated at hospitals with more diverse patient populations, they were 20 percent less likely to die or experience major complications. 

The findings suggest that physicians and staff who are culturally competent at working with diverse populations provide better care to minority patients than doctors who mostly see white patients. "Our underlying hypothesis is that hospitals and providers that treat more minority patients have higher levels of cultural competency," Okafor told Reuters. 

The research team studied data on more than 848,000 admissions at almost 3,400 hospitals nationwide, tracking outcomes for black patients admitted with cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, gastrointestinal hemorrhages, gastrointestinal obstructions, irritable bowel disease and gallbladder surgery. African-American patients treated in mostly-white hospitals (where nonwhite patients make up around 26 to 30 percent of the patient populations) pay 36 percent more on average for their care than white patients, according to the study.

Cultural competency is key in working with nonwhite patients. Studies have found that when healthcare workers negatively stereotype their patients, those patients receive lower quality care and have worse outcomes. 

Institutions with racially diverse leadership, studies have demonstrated, provide better outcomes for patients of color, which leads to a greater connection to the community. However, while progress is being made, there is still a long way to go.

To learn more:
- check out the study abstract
- here's the Reuters report