Racial and ethnic differences in low-value pediatric emergency care

Joyce Li*, Sriram Ramgopal, Jennifer R. Marin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Disparities in health care quality frequently focus on underuse. We evaluated racial/ethnic differences in low-value services delivered in the pediatric emergency department (ED). Methods: We performed a retrospective cross-sectional study of low-value services in children discharged from 39 pediatric EDs from January 2018 to December 2019 using the Pediatric Hospital Information System. Our primary outcome was receipt of one of 12 low-value services across nine conditions, including chest radiography in asthma and bronchiolitis; beta-agonist and corticosteroids in bronchiolitis; laboratory testing and neuroimaging in febrile seizure; neuroimaging in afebrile seizure; head injury and headache; and any imaging in sinusitis, constipation, and facial trauma. We analyzed the association of race/ethnicity on receipt of low-value services using generalized linear mixed models adjusted for age, sex, weekend, hour of presentation, payment, year, household income, and distance from hospital. Results: We included 4,676,802 patients. Compared with non-Hispanic White (NHW) patients, non-Hispanic Black (NHB) and Hispanic patients had lower adjusted odds (aOR [95% confidence interval]) of receiving imaging for asthma (0.60 [0.56 to 0.63] NHB; 0.84 [0.79 to 0.89] Hispanic), bronchiolitis (0.84 [0.79 to 0.89] NHB; 0.93 [0.88 to 0.99] Hispanic), head injury (0.84 [0.80 to 0.88] NHB; 0.80 [0.76 to 0.84] Hispanic), headache (0.67 [0.63 to 0.72] NHB; 0.83 [0.78 to 0.88] Hispanic), and constipation (0.71 [0.67 to 0.74] NHB; 0.76 [0.72 to 0.80] Hispanic). NHB patients had lower odds (95% CI) of receiving imaging for afebrile seizures (0.89 [0.8 to 1.0]) and facial trauma (0.69 [0.60 to 0.80]). Hispanic patients had lower odds (95% CI) of imaging (0.57 [0.36 to 0.90]) and blood testing (0.82 [0.69 to 0.98]) for febrile seizures. NHB patients had higher odds (95% CI) of receiving steroids (1.11 [1.00 to 1.21]) and beta-agonists (1.38 [1.24 to 1.54]) for bronchiolitis compared with NHW patients. Conclusions: NHW patients more frequently receive low-value imaging while NHB patients more frequently receive low-value medications for bronchiolitis. Our study demonstrates the differences in care across race and ethnicity extend to many services, including those of low value. These findings highlight the importance of greater understanding of the complex interaction of race and ethnicity with clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-709
Number of pages12
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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