Association of a Policy Mandating Physician-Patient Communication With Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Postmastectomy Breast Reconstruction

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Abstract

Importance

With the stabilization of breast cancer incidence and substantial improvement in survival, more attention has focused on postmastectomy breast reconstruction (PBR). Despite its demonstrated benefits, wide disparities in the use of PBR remain. Physician-patient communication has an important role in disparities in health care, especially for elective surgical procedures. Recognizing this, the State of New York enacted Public Health Law (NY PBH Law) 2803-o in 2011 mandating that physicians communicate about reconstructive surgery with patients undergoing mastectomy.

Objective

To evaluate whether mandated physician-patient communication is associated with reduced racial/ethnic disparities in immediate PBR (IPBR).

Design, Setting, and Participants

This retrospective study used state inpatient data from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2011, in New York and California to evaluate a final sample of 42 346 women aged 20 to 70 years, including 19 364 from New York (treatment group) and 22 982 from California (comparison group). The primary hypothesis tested the effect of the New York law on racial/ethnic disparities, using California as a comparator. The National Academy of Medicine’s (formerly Institute of Medicine) definition of a disparity was applied, and a difference-in-differences method (before-and-after comparison design) was used to evaluate the association of NY PBH Law 2803-o mandating physician-patient communication with disparities in IPBR. Data were analyzed from July 1, 2016, to February 24, 2017.

Exposures

New York PBH Law 2803-o was implemented on January 1, 2011. The preexposure period included January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2010 (3 years); the postexposure period, January 1 through December 31, 2011 (1 year).

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary outcome was use of IPBR among white, African American, Hispanic, and other minority groups before and after the implementation of NY PBH Law 2803-o.

Results

Among the 42 346 women (mean [SD] age, 53 [10] years), 65.3% (27 654) were white, 12.7% (5365) were Hispanic, 9.4% (3976) were African American, and 12.6% (5351) were other minorities. The new legislation was not associated with the overall IPBR rate or disparity in IPBR between whites and African Americans (reduction of 1 percentage point; 95% CI, −0.02 to 0.04), but it was associated with a reduction in disparities in IPBR between Hispanic and white patients by 9 (95% CI, 0.06-0.11) percentage points and between other minorities and white patients by 13 (95% CI, 0.11-0.16) percentage points.

Conclusions and Relevance

Physician-patient communication may help to address inequity in the use of elective surgical procedures, such as IPBR. However, lack of patient trust and/or effective physician-patient communication may reduce the potential effect of mandatory communication for some subpopulations, including African American individuals.

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