Heart Attack Deaths in U.S. Territory Hospitals Higher

Heart attack patients treated at hospitals in territories including Puerto Rico more likely to die

(RxWiki News) Medical care has become fairly standardized across the United States with residents of Iowa expecting to receive similar care as those in Louisiana. A recent study shows that the exception might be U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico.

Yale School of Medicine researchers discovered patients are a 17 percent greater risk of dying following a heart attack when treated at a U.S. territory hospital as compared to the mainland United States. This includes territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and others.

"Investigate all of your options when seeking medical care in U.S. territories."

Authors studied data from Medicare, examining records of all patients suffering a heart attack who were admitted to one of 57 U.S. territory hospitals. Results were compared to heart attack patients admitted to 4,799 hospitals in the mainland between July 2005 and June 2008.

They discovered that the risk of death within 30 days after a heart attack was substantially higher for patients in all of the U.S. territories. Investigators ruled out explanations for the findings such as determining that those living in the U.S. territories did not get sicker than those on the mainland.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, M.D., assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said that investigators were shocked by the findings showing the substantial difference in death rates.

Dr. Nunez-Smith said the study results highlight a need for increased medical resources and quality of care improvements in the U.S. territories. She also said Medicare reimbursement rates in U.S. territory hospitals, among the lowest in the nation, are in need of change.

The study was partially funded by the Yale Clinical and Translational Science Award grant from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health. The study was published in journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Review Date: 
June 29, 2011