Race and Ethnicity and Emergency Department Discharge Against Medical Advice

Link to article at PubMed

JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Nov 1;6(11):e2345437. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.45437.


IMPORTANCE: Although discharges against medical advice (DAMA) are associated with greater morbidity and mortality, little is known about current racial and ethnic disparities in DAMA from the emergency department (ED) nationally.

OBJECTIVE: To characterize current patterns of racial and ethnic disparities in rates of ED DAMA.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cross-sectional study used data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample on all hospital ED visits made between January to December 2019 in the US.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The main outcome was odds of ED DAMA for Black and Hispanic patients compared with White patients nationally and in analysis adjusted for sociodemographic factors. Secondary analysis examined hospital-level variation in DAMA rates for Black, Hispanic, and White patients.

RESULTS: The study sample included 33 147 251 visits to 989 hospitals, representing the estimated 143 million ED visits in 2019. The median age of patients was 40 years (IQR, 22-61 years). Overall, 1.6% of ED visits resulted in DAMA. DAMA rates were higher for Black patients (2.1%) compared with Hispanic (1.6%) and White (1.4%) patients, males (1.7%) compared with females (1.5%), those with no insurance (2.8%), those with lower income (<$27 999; 1.9%), and those aged 35 to 49 years (2.2%). DAMA visits were highest at metropolitan teaching hospitals (1.8%) and hospitals that served greater proportions of racial and ethnic minoritized patients (serving ≥57.9%; 2.1%). Odds of DAMA were greater for Black patients (odds ratio [OR], 1.45; 95% CI, 1.31-1.57) and Hispanic patients (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.04-1.29) compared with White patients. After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics (age, sex, income, and insurance status), the adjusted OR (AOR) for DAMA was lower for Black patients compared with the unadjusted OR (AOR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.09-1.28) and there was no difference in odds for Hispanic patients (AOR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.92-1.15) compared with White patients. After additional adjustment for hospital random intercepts, DAMA disparities reversed, with Black and Hispanic patients having lower odds of DAMA compared with White patients (Black patients: AOR, 0.94 [95% CI, 0.90-0.98]; Hispanic patients: AOR, 0.68 [95% CI, 0.63-0.72]). The intraclass correlation in this secondary analysis model was 0.118 (95% CI, 0.104-0.133).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This national cross-sectional study found that Black and Hispanic patients had greater odds of ED DAMA than White patients in unadjusted analysis. Disparities were reversed after patient-level and hospital-level risk adjustment, and greater between-hospital than within-hospital variation in DAMA was observed, suggesting that Black and Hispanic patients are more likely to receive care in hospitals with higher DAMA rates. Structural racism may contribute to ED DAMA disparities via unequal allocation of health care resources in hospitals that disproportionately treat racial and ethnic minoritized groups. Monitoring variation in DAMA by race and ethnicity and hospital suggests an opportunity to improve equitable access to health care.

PMID:38015503 | PMC:PMC10685883 | DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.45437

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