Title: The influence of patient race on the use of diagnostic imaging in United States emergency departments: Data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care survey
Country: United States
Age: All Ages
Sex: All Sexes
Population: Multiple Groups
Care Setting: Emergency Department
Clinical Setting: General Diagnostic Imaging
Data Level: National
Data Type: Government Survey
Data Source: National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey
Conclusion: Disparities In All Minority Groups
Health OutComes Reported: No
Free Text Conclusion: Minorities less likely to get imaging in the ED.
Abstract: Background: An established body of literature has shown evidence of implicit bias in the health care system on the basis of patient race and ethnicity that contributes to well documented disparities in outcomes. However, little is known about the influence of patient race and ethnicity on the decision to order diagnostic radiology exams in the acute care setting. This study examines the role of patient race and ethnicity on the likelihood of diagnostic imaging exams being ordered during United States emergency department encounters. Methods: Publicly available data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Emergency Department sample for the years 2006-2016 was compiled. The proportion of patient encounters where diagnostic imaging was ordered was tabulated by race/ethnicity, sub-divided by imaging modality. A multivariable logistic regression model was used to evaluate the influence of patient race/ethnicity on the ordering of diagnostic imaging controlling for other patient and hospital characteristics. Survey weighting variables were used to formulate national-level estimates. Results: Using the weighted data, an average of 131,558,553 patient encounters were included each year for the 11-year study period. Imaging was used at 46% of all visits although this varied significantly by patient race and ethnicity with white patients receiving medical imaging at 49% of visits and non-white patients at 41% of visits (p < 0.001). This effect persisted in the controlled regression model and across all imaging modalities with the exception of ultrasound. Other factors with a significant influence on imaging use included patient age, gender, insurance status, number of co-morbidities, hospital setting (urban vs non-urban) and hospital region. There was no evidence to suggest that the disparate use of imaging by patient race and ethnicity changed over the 11-year study time period. Conclusion: The likelihood that a diagnostic imaging exam will be ordered during United States emergency department encounters differs significantly by patient race and ethnicity even when controlling for other patient and hospital characteristics. Further work must be done to understand and mitigate what may represent systematic bias and ensure equitable use of health care resources.