Objectives: To examine whether differences in intensities of care by socioeconomic status and race result in worse health among adults with asthma post-hospital discharge.
Design: Patients were enrolled during hospitalization and recontacted three months after discharge.
Patients: Those aged 18-55 years, with a primary diagnosis of asthma (n = 97).
Main outcome measures: Regular source of care, "intensive" therapy (use of an anti-inflammatory agent, pulmonary function testing, or an asthma specialist), and patient-reported (Intermediate Activities of Daily Living Scale [IADL] score, dyspnea) and performance-based (peak flow rate) measures of health status post-discharge.
Results: 28% of patients with a yearly income less than $16,000 had no regular source of care, compared with 11% of those with an income from $16,000 to $29,999 and no patient with an income of at least $30,000 (p = 0.003). Similarly, intensive therapy was received by 40%, 67%, and 81% of these groups (p = 0.005). Education had similar associations. Patients with no regular source of care or who did not receive intensive therapy had significantly worse health. Patients of lower socioeconomic status had health outcomes that were up to 25% lower than those of patients of higher socioeconomic status (p < 0.05 for differences in LADL score, dyspnea, and peak flow by educational levels and for differences in dyspnea by income levels), after adjustment for age, gender, race, insurance status, and baseline health. After further adjustment for source of care and intensity of therapy, differences in health outcomes by socioeconomic status uniformly decreased in magnitude and only the differences in LADL scores and dyspnea by educational levels remained statistically significant. Although nonwhite patients were less likely to have a regular source of care or to receive intensive therapy, there was no difference in health outcomes by race.
Conclusions: Patients of lower socioeconomic status who have asthma have worse health outcomes post-hospital discharge, which appear to be due in part to less continuous and less intensive treatment.