May 25, 2021 - Health

Racial segregation is common in urban hospital markets

Reproduced from Lown Institute Hospitals Index; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Lown Institute Hospitals Index; Chart: Axios Visuals

Some of the least racially inclusive hospitals in the U.S. are located in the same cities — even within blocks, in some cases — as some of the most inclusive hospitals, according to a new report from the Lown Institute.

Why it matters: In a year that has highlighted racial inequities in healthcare, the analysis shows the segregation still playing out at hospitals across the nation.

Details: Lown, a health care think tank, looked at looked the demographics of more than 3,200 hospitals’ Medicare patients compared to the demographics of hospitals’ surrounding communities.

  • In the 50 most inclusive hospitals, people of color made up 61% of patients on average. At the 50 least inclusive hospitals, people of color made up 17% of the patients on average, the report said.
  • Atlanta and Los Angeles leaned heavily toward non-inclusive hospitals, while Washington, D.C. had a closer mix.
  • As Axios' Bob Herman has previously reported, cash-strapped safety-net hospitals are more likely to treat patients who are people of color, while wealthier facilities treat more white patients. But safety-net hospitals lack the resources of their more affluent counterparts, which exacerbates disparities in health outcomes.

What they’re saying: “If you want to see structural racism, just look at big city hospitals during COVID. Hospitals with a history of serving communities of color needed refrigerator trucks to hold bodies of deceased patients, while wealthier hospitals nearby had empty beds,” said Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute.

Go deeper: The health care system collects the effects of racism

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