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New Research Assesses Equity in Quality of Care Delivered Across Oncology Practices in US

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Racial inequities in clinical performance diminish overall health care system performance; however, quality assessments have rarely incorporated reliable measures of racial inequities.

New research, published in Health Affairs, studied care for more than one million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries with cancer to assess the feasibility of calculating reliable practice-level measures of racial inequities in chemotherapy-associated emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations. Specifically, they used hierarchical models to estimate adjusted practice-level Black-White differences in these events and described differences across practices.

Researchers calculated reliable inequity measures for 426 and 322 practices, depending on the measure. These practices reflected fewer than 10 percent of practices treating Medicare beneficiaries with chemotherapy, but they treated approximately half of all White and Black Medicare beneficiaries receiving chemotherapy and two-thirds of Black Medicare beneficiaries receiving chemotherapy.

Black patients experienced chemotherapy-associated ED visits and hospitalizations at higher rates (54.2 percent and 35.8 percent, respectively) than White patients (45.7 percent and 31.9 percent, respectively). The median within-practice Black-White difference was 8.1 percentage points for chemotherapy-associated ED visits and 2.7 percentage points for chemotherapy-associated hospitalizations.

Additional research is needed to identify other reliable measures of racial inequities in health care quality, measure care inequities in smaller practices, and assess whether providing practice-level feedback could improve equity.

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