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Addressing Racial Inequities: Get the Facts

The Brigham is committed to examining and eliminating the many impacts that racism has on the health and wellbeing of our patients. As part of our system's United Against Racism campaign, we support efforts focused on improving patient access and experience, community health and advocacy, and increasing the diversity of leadership.

Recent stories published online about an opinion piece written by two physicians misrepresent the values, goals and commitment to high quality care that the Brigham maintains for all our patients and their families. These stories do so by presenting misleading characterizations of a proposed project that aims to address racial inequities. This proposed pilot program, which is under consideration, is not currently underway at the hospital. Below are the facts.

Despite decades of civil rights protections, health inequity today continues to be a patient safety and public health issue. This reality has been made more obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond COVID-19 illness and mortality rates, it has been clearly documented that racial and ethnic minority populations have worse health outcomes compared to white Americans.

In 2019, as part of an initiative by the Brigham's Department of Medicine Health Equity Committee, researchers conducted a study looking at patients admitted to the Brigham with a diagnosis of heart failure. They evaluated whether race and other factors influenced whether the patient was admitted to either the specialized cardiology service or general medicine service and the associated outcomes. The team found that patients who self-identified as Black, Latinx, female or over the age of 75 were less likely to be admitted to the specialized cardiology service, even after adjusting for demographic and clinical factors. Additionally, patients admitted to the general medicine service had higher rates of readmission within 30 days.

To address the racial inequities found in the 2019 study, researchers have proposed a pilot program for heart failure patients that would evaluate potential opportunities to improve access for patients who have been historically denied equal access.

The Claim:

The Brigham has said that it will offer preferential care based on race.

The Facts:

This is false. A proposed pilot program for heart failure patients aims to address the racial inequities identified in a recent research study, which found that patients who self-identified as Black, Latinx, female or over the age of 75 were less likely to be admitted to the cardiology service, even after adjusting for demographic and clinical factors. Additionally, patients admitted to the general medicine service had higher rates of readmission within 30 days.

The proposed pilot program would identify opportunities to improve access for patients who need specialized cardiology care. Any intervention would be assessed to determine whether it leads to equity in admissions and improved outcomes for patients who have historically not had equitable access. This proposed pilot program is not currently underway at the hospital.

The Claim:

The proposed program is illegal.

The Facts:

As part of our system's United Against Racism campaign, we are tackling the barriers to equity that exist today by identifying racial disparities and taking action to address them. This proposed pilot program is under consideration, and part of that vetting process includes a review of the legal landscape.

The Claim:

The Brigham is a racist organization.

The Facts:

Addressing racism is one of the most important public health crises of our time. As part of our system's United Against Racism campaign, we support efforts focused on improving patient access and experience, community health and advocacy, and increasing the diversity of leadership. Structural racism, which has historically targeted people of color in the United States through institutional practices and public policies, perpetuates racial inequity and leads to disparities in health and disease for our patients of color.

The Claim:

The Brigham is discriminating against white people.

The Facts:

This is not true. The Brigham is committed to eliminating any instances where people are excluded because of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

The proposed pilot program would identify opportunities to improve access for patients who need specialized cardiology care, and is not intended to diminish the high quality of care our white patients — or any other patients — continue to receive.

The Claim:

The Brigham will prioritize the care of non-white patients and Black and Latinx people will get better care.

The Facts:

This is not true. The Brigham is committed to ensuring that all patients receive safe, compassionate and high-quality care.

The proposed pilot program is not designed to create better care for some patients versus others but rather address the inequities in care that have been identified.

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