Black patients in Florida are transferred to public hospitals more often than white patients, even when comparing patients from the same hospital with similar health conditions and the same insurance, according to new research led by Charleen Hsuan, assistant professor of health policy and administration at Penn State. Before 1986, hospitals would sometimes transfer patients who could not afford care to public hospitals or other safety net hospitals. These safety net hospitals often had poorer health outcomes for their patients than their private counterparts. In 1986, a new federal law curtailed transfers of patients solely because they could not pay, but concerns remain about the reasons that patients are transferred from one hospital to another, Hsuan said.
Over three million patients are transferred between hospitals in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While transfers typically occur because the original hospital cannot provide needed treatment, a variety of factors affect where or if a patient is transferred.
Hsuan and an interdisciplinary team of researchers studied more than 1.2 million emergency department transfers in Florida to understand whether individuals from different ethnic and racial groups were treated equitably. Their results, published recently in Health Services Research, revealed that Black patients were more likely to be transferred to public hospitals than white patients.