Are there differences in treatment and clinical outcomes of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 associated with race?
In this cohort study that included 43 222 adult veterans hospitalized with COVID-19, Black veterans had lower odds of receiving COVID-19–specific treatments, including steroids, immunomodulators, and antivirals.
These findings suggest that variation in treatment contributes to differences in COVID-19 care between Black and White patients.
Patients from racially and ethnically minoritized populations, such as Black and Hispanic patients, may be less likely to receive evidence-based COVID-19 treatments than White patients, contributing to adverse clinical outcomes.
To determine whether clinical treatments and outcomes among patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were associated with race.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This retrospective cohort study was conducted in 130 Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs) between March 1, 2020, and February 28, 2022, with a 60-day follow-up period until May 1, 2022. Participants included veterans hospitalized with COVID-19. Data were analyzed from May 6 to June 2, 2022.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Clinical care processes (eg, intensive care unit [ICU] admission; organ support measures, including invasive and noninvasive mechanical ventilation; prone position therapy, and COVID-19–specific medical treatments) were quantified. Clinical outcomes of interest included in-hospital mortality, 60-day mortality, and 30-day readmissions. Outcomes were assessed with multivariable random effects logistic regression models to estimate the association of race with outcomes not attributable to known mediators, such as socioeconomic status and age, while adjusting for potential confounding between outcomes and mediators.
A total of 43 222 veterans (12 135 Black veterans [28.1%]; 31 087 White veterans [71.9%]; 40 717 [94.2%] men) with a median (IQR) age of 71 (62-77) years who were hospitalized with SARS-CoV-2 infection were included. Controlling for site of treatment, Black patients were equally likely to be admitted to the ICU (4806 Black patients [39.6%] vs 13 427 White patients [43.2%]; within-center adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.95; 95% CI, 0.88-1.02; P = .17). Two-thirds of patients treated with supplemental oxygen or noninvasive or invasive mechanical ventilation also received systemic steroids, but Black veterans were less likely to receive steroids (within-center aOR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.80-0.96; P = .004; between-center aOR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.48-0.96; P = .03). Similarly, Black patients were less likely to receive remdesivir (within-center aOR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.83-0.95; P < .001; between-center aOR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.47-0.99; P = .02) or treatment with immunomodulatory drugs (within-center aOR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.67-0.87; P < .001). After adjusting for patient demographic characteristics, chronic health conditions, severity of acute illness, and receipt of COVID-19–specific treatments, there was no association of Black race with hospital mortality (within-center aOR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.86-1.10; P = .71) or 30-day readmission (within-center aOR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.88-1.04; P = .28).
Conclusions and Relevance
These findings suggest that Black veterans hospitalized with COVID-19 were less likely to be treated with evidence-based COVID-19 treatments, including systemic steroids, remdesivir, and immunomodulatory drugs.