That’s the conclusion of a study co-authored by Albany Medical Center Surgeon-in-Chief Steven Stain, M.D., that was published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Care Center, was funded by the American Cancer Society.
The study examined outcomes following cancer surgery using recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute. Among their discoveries, researchers found that five-year survival rates varied by 10 percent between blacks and whites with colorectal cancer and by 25 percent among uterine cancer patients.
According to Dr. Stain, blacks are often less likely to receive appropriate or timely screenings, and therefore often diagnosed with more advanced cancer along with other underlying health problems. In addition, black patients— due to their geographic locations or lack of insurance— tend to be treated at hospitals with a reduced ability to deliver high quality care.
“Successful elimination of these disparities will require change at multiple levels,” said Dr. Stain.
The researchers recommend several policy changes, including expanding public insurance systems to patients who are underinsured or uninsured, many of whom include racial or ethnic minorities. They also suggest developing tools to better assist patients in navigating the health care system to make screenings and follow-up care easier to access. In addition, the researchers challenge the “carrot” approach assumptions underlying existing programs that offer financial incentives to hospitals that meet certain benchmark performance measures, claiming that hospitals that are already resource-constrained cannot possibly benefit.
“Hospitals that treat predominantly black patients tend to have fewer resources, so withholding additional resources will not improve care,” said Stain. “We would prefer to see these hospitals receive incentives for quality improvement efforts.”
Albany Medical Center is northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center. It consists of Albany Medical College, Albany Medical Center Hospital and the Albany Medical Center Foundation, Inc. Additional information about Albany Medical Center can be found at www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.
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