Medicine (Baltimore). 2023 Mar 10;102(10):e33178. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000033178.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted significant disparities in hospital outcomes when focusing on social determinants of health. Better understanding the drivers of these disparities is not only critical for COVID-19 care but also to ensure equitable treatment more generally. In this paper, we look at how hospital admission patterns, both to the medical ward and the intensive care unit (ICU), may have differed by race, ethnicity, and social determinants of health. We conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients who presented to the Emergency Department of a large quaternary hospital between March 8 and June 3, 2020. We built logistic regression models to analyze how race, ethnicity, area deprivation index, English as a primary language, homelessness, and illicit substance use impacted the likelihood of admission while controlling for disease severity and timing of admission in relation to the start of data collection. We had 1302 recorded Emergency Department visits of patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2. White, Hispanic, and African American patients made up 39.2%, 37.5%, and 10.4% of the population respectively. Primary language was recorded as English for 41.2% and non-English for 30% of patients. Among the social determinants of health assessed, we found that illicit drug use significantly increased the likelihood for admission to the medical ward (odds ratio 4.4, confidence interval 1.1-17.1, P = .04), and that having a language other than English as a primary language significantly increased the likelihood of ICU admission (odds ratio 2.6, confidence interval 1.2-5.7, P = .02). Illicit drug use was associated with an increased likelihood of medical ward admission, potentially due to clinician concerns for complicated withdrawal or blood-stream infections from intravenous drug use. The increased likelihood of ICU admission associated with a primary language other than English may have been driven by communication difficulties or differences in disease severity that our model did not detect. Further work is required to better understand drivers of disparities in hospital COVID-19 care.