No racial differences in mortality found among Veterans Health Administration out-patients

Alfredo J Selim, Graeme Fincke, Dan R Berlowitz, Zhongxiao Cong, Donald R Miller, Xinhua S Ren, Shirley Qian, William Rogers, Austin Lee, A K Rosen, Bernardo J Selim, Lewis E Kazis
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2004, 57 (5): 539-42

OBJECTIVE: Health care delivery systems that offer equal access to ambulatory care may hold promise for preventing and correcting racial disparities that exist in our health care system as a whole. We examined whether racial differences in mortality rates exist among patients receiving outpatient care within the Veterans Health Administration.

STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: This study used data from the 1998 National Survey of Ambulatory Care Patients, a prospective monitoring system of patient outcomes. We used an outpatient care system in the Veterans Health Administration. We followed 25,172 Whites and 3,517 African-Americans for 48 months. The main study outcome measures were unadjusted and adjusted mortality rates over a 48-month period.

RESULTS: African-Americans had significantly lower unadjusted 48-month mortality rates than Whites (33 vs. 40 deaths per 1,000 person-year, hazard ratio, 0.84; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75-0.95). After risk adjustment, the mortality rates became similar for African-Americans and Whites (hazard ratio, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.89-1.09). These findings were consistent across all time points evaluated during the 48-month follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: The lack of racial differences in mortality in patients receiving ambulatory care in the Veterans Health Administration is reassuring, given the emphasis on equal access within this health care system. This warrants further research to determine whether efforts to improve access in other settings have the potential to reduce racial disparities in health care.

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