January 23, 2014 — Female and uninsured hospital patients are less likely to be transferred to other facilities, contributing to health care disparities for the groups, according to a study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, FierceHealthcare reports.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Iowa and University of Toronto examined nationwide data from 2010 on patients ages 18 through 64 who were diagnosed with biliary tract disease, chest pain, pneumonia, septicemia, and skin or subcutaneous infections.
The researchers compared the numbers of privately insured, publicly insured and uninsured patients who were transferred between acute care hospitals. In total, out of 315,748 patients discharged from 1,051 hospitals, transfer rates ranged from 1.3% of skin infection patients to 5.1% of septicemia patients.
Women were significantly less likely than men to be transferred for all five diagnoses, the study found. In addition, the proportion of transferred uninsured patients was significantly lower than for insured patients for three of the five diagnoses.
Study lead author Janel Hanmer, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the researchers had "hypothesized that uninsured patients would be more likely to be transferred as hospitals tried to punt these unprofitable cases to other hospitals in the areas."
However, the study "suggest[s] that perhaps both the uninsured and women are not being transferred when they should be," she said (Sullivan, FierceHealthcare, 1/21).