Racial disparities in neurologic health care access and utilization in the United States

Neurology. 2017 Jun 13;88(24):2268-2275. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004025. Epub 2017 May 17.


Objective: To evaluate racial and ethnic differences in the utilization of neurologic care across a wide range of neurologic conditions in the United States.

Methods: We analyzed nationally representative data from the 2006-2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), including information on demographics, patient-reported health conditions, neurology visit rates, and costs. Using diagnostic codes, we identified persons with any self-identified neurologic disorder except back pain, as well as 5 subgroups (Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, headache, cerebrovascular disease, and epilepsy). To assess disparities in neurologic care utilization, we performed logistic regression analyses of outpatient department neurologic care visit rates and expenditures for each racial ethnic group controlling for age, sex, health status, socioeconomic characteristics, and geographic region of care.

Results: Of the 279,103 MEPS respondents, 16,936 (6%) self-reported a neurologic condition; 5,890 (2%) received a total of 13,685 outpatient neurology visits. Black participants were nearly 30% less likely to see an outpatient neurologist (odds ratio [OR] 0.72, confidence interval [CI] 0.64-0.81) relative to their white counterparts, even after adjustment for demographic, insurance, and health status differences. Hispanic participants were 40% less likely to see an outpatient neurologist (OR 0.61, CI 0.54-0.69). Among participants with known neurologic conditions, blacks were more likely to be cared for in the emergency department, to have more hospital stays, and to have higher per capita inpatient expenditures than their white counterparts.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight racial and ethnic inequalities in the utilization of neurologic care in the United States.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility* / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility* / statistics & numerical data
  • Healthcare Disparities / economics
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / economics
  • Nervous System Diseases / ethnology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Self Report
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult