Study: Poorer patients get delayed heart attack care

People with a low income--including those with Medicaid coverage--often take much longer than more affluent people to get to the hospital when afflicted with a heart attack, new research has concluded. The results suggest that patients with lesser means may be at a greater risk of missing a critical window for time-sensitive care following their attack, researchers said. However, the researchers didn't discover any clear reasons as to why this is happening.

The study, which appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved an analysis of more than 6,700 medical records of men and women who had a heart attack between 1993 and 2002. By cross-referencing the patient addresses with census data, the researchers were able to sort the patients into low, medium and high-income groups.

Researchers concluded that 36 percent of the patients saw a short (less than two hours) delay in getting to their local hospital, 42 percent had a medium delay of two to 12 hours, while 22 percent underwent a long delay of 12 hours to three days. After factoring out issues such as age, gender, distance to hospital and race, the authors concluded that Medicaid patients and those in low-income neighborhoods were more likely to have a long or medium delay in getting to the hospital for care.

Two key conclusions were that patients in low-income neighborhoods were 46 percent more likely to experience a long rather than short delay, and patients on Medicaid were 87 percent more likely to wait a long time before having their symptoms addressed.

To learn more about this research:
- read this Washington Post piece

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