Context: Understanding whether and why there are racial disparities in readmissions has implications for efforts to reduce readmissions.
Objective: To determine whether black patients have higher odds of readmission than white patients and whether these disparities are related to where black patients receive care.
Design: Using national Medicare data, we examined 30-day readmissions after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (MI), congestive heart failure (CHF), and pneumonia. We categorized hospitals in the top decile of proportion of black patients as minority-serving. We determined the odds of readmission for black patients compared with white patients at minority-serving vs non-minority-serving hospitals.
Setting and participants: Medicare Provider Analysis Review files of more than 3.1 million Medicare fee-for-service recipients who were discharged from US hospitals in 2006-2008.
Main outcome measure: Risk-adjusted odds of 30-day readmission.
Results: Overall, black patients had higher readmission rates than white patients (24.8% vs 22.6%, odds ratio [OR], 1.13; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11-1.14; P < .001); patients from minority-serving hospitals had higher readmission rates than those from non-minority-serving hospitals (25.5% vs 22.0%, OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.20-1.27; P < .001). Among patients with acute MI and using white patients from non-minority-serving hospitals as the reference group (readmission rate 20.9%), black patients from minority-serving hospitals had the highest readmission rate (26.4%; OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.28-1.42), while white patients from minority-serving hospitals had a 24.6% readmission rate (OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.18-1.29) and black patients from non-minority-serving hospitals had a 23.3% readmission rate (OR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.16-1.23; P < .001 for each); patterns were similar for CHF and pneumonia. The results were unchanged after adjusting for hospital characteristics including markers of caring for poor patients.
Conclusion: Among elderly Medicare recipients, black patients were more likely to be readmitted after hospitalization for 3 common conditions, a gap that was related to both race and to the site where care was received.