Can characteristics of a health care system mitigate ethnic bias in access to cardiovascular procedures? Experience from the Military Health Services System

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997 Oct;30(4):901-7. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(97)00271-4.


Objectives: This study sought to investigate the independent effect of ethnicity on the utilization of invasive cardiac procedures after acute myocardial infarction (AMI).

Background: The precise role of ethnicity in access to cardiovascular procedures is unknown, particularly because of difficulty in isolating ethnicity from financial and other socioeconomic factors. We conducted a retrospective analysis of the use of cardiac catheterization and coronary revascularization procedures after AMI in military health care beneficiaries. The Military Health Services System (MHSS) ensures equal access to care in an environment without financial incentives for procedural utilization; furthermore, socioeconomic differences between patients beyond ethnicity are minimized.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the Civilian External Peer Review Program representing abstracted chart reviews from 125 military health care facilities worldwide for all patients (1,208 white; 233 nonwhite [155 black]) with the principal or secondary diagnosis of AMI from March to September 1993.

Results: Rates of cardiac catheterization were similar in white and nonwhite patients (34.8 vs. 39.1%, p = 0.21). After controlling for age, gender, cardiovascular risk factors and AMI variables, including infarct size and other risk markers, there were no differences in the use of this procedure during the AMI admission in comparisons of white versus nonwhite patients (estimated odds ratio [OR] 0.96, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.69 to 1.34) and white versus black patients (OR 1.19, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.78). However, white patients were significantly more likely than nonwhite patients to be "considered" for future cardiac catheterization (OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.19 to 2.61). Coronary revascularization within 180 days was not significantly affected by race in white versus nonwhite (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.39) and white versus black patients (OR 1.11, 95% CI 0.65 to 1.89). Outcomes (30- and 180-day mortality and readmission rates) were similar for all race groups.

Conclusions: There is a limited relation between ethnicity and the use of invasive cardiac procedures in the MHSS. These data raise the promise that characteristics of a health care system can mitigate ethnic bias in medicine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Cardiac Catheterization / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Hospitals, Military / organization & administration*
  • Hospitals, Military / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis
  • Myocardial Infarction / ethnology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardial Revascularization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prejudice
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States