Richard K. Leuchter

COVID-19: Racial Disparities in Avoidable Hospitalizations During Pandemic Interview with:

Richard K. Leuchter

Dr. Leuchter

Richard K. Leuchter, MD
Resident Physician
Department of Internal Medicine
UCLA Health What is the background for this study?

Response: There has been significant research demonstrating racial healthcare disparities among patients with COVID-19, but less exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the healthcare of racial & ethnic minority groups without COVID-19. It is important to understand the ways in which the pandemic has exacerbated the inequitable delivery of healthcare in order to design policies to address these racial injustices.

We focused on potentially avoidable hospitalizations, which are admissions to a hospital (not for COVID-19) that likely could have been prevented through timely and high-quality outpatient care. Prior research has shown that avoidable hospitalizations are markers for access to outpatient care, and expose patients to preventable financial burden, separate them from their families, and put them at risk for hospital-acquired infections. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that at UCLA Health hospitals, potentially avoidable hospitalizations fell by nearly 40% during the first 6-months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that they did not fall equally among racial groups. There was a large magnitude of reduction of 50% among non-Hispanic White patients, but only an 8% reduction among African American patients. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: While the idea of a decrease in avoidable hospitalizations might be appealing on a population-wide level, this study suggests that any potential benefits gained from their reduction were not shared equally among racial groups. There are two main implications related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

1) African American patients may have experienced a relative worsening in access to outpatient care compared to non-Hispanic White patients, and

2) There may have been unequal exposure to medical harm among African American patients (relative to non-Hispanic White patients). What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research should focus on identifying the complex reasons accounting for the unequal decreases in potentially avoidable hospitalizations. These findings also suggest that health policies to address this problem need to be thoughtfully designed so that they do not unintentionally widen the disparity in potentially avoidable hospitalizations. 

Disclosures: The authors would like to thank the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the NIH-NHLBI funded Stimulating Access to Research in Residency Program for their support of this work. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


Racial Disparities in Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Leuchter, Richard K. et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 0, Issue 0



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Last Updated on March 20, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD