Persons of Color Less Likely to See a Neurologist

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Despite prevalence of neurologic disorders, blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to make an appointment with a neurologist.
Despite prevalence of neurologic disorders, blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to make an appointment with a neurologist.

HealthDay News -- Black and Hispanic patients are less likely than white patients to make an appointment to see a neurologist, according to a study published in Neurology.

Researchers analyzed data compiled on 279,103 people over the course of 8 years. Of these individuals, almost 16,936 reported having a neurologic disorder. The findings showed that 3338 patients had cerebrovascular disease, 2236 had epilepsy, 399 had multiple sclerosis, and 397 were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The researchers identified 5890 patients who made 13,685 outpatient visits to neurologists.

The investigators found Hispanics were 40% less likely than whites to schedule an appointment with a neurologist. Black patients were 30% less likely to see one of these specialists. This was even after the researchers considered other factors that could play a role in access to health care, such as income and insurance status. Black Americans were more likely to have been treated in the emergency department, and black patients were also admitted to the hospital about twice as often as whites and Hispanics. Medical expenses were also much higher for black patients, with costs reaching $1,485 per person, compared to $599 for white patients.

"Previous research has shown that having neurologists involved in the care of people with neurologic conditions reduces serious side effects and hospitalizations for acute problems," study author Altaf Saadi, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. "So, unequal access to outpatient care may be resulting in unnecessary medical and financial costs."

Reference

Saadi A, Himmelstein DU, Woolhandler S, Mejia NI. Racial disparities in neurologic health care access and utilization in the United States [published online May 17, 2017]. Neurology. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004025

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