Abstract Category: Research

Purpose: Acute abdominal pain (AAP) is one of the most common complaints in the Emergency Department (ED). Rapid diagnosis is essential and is often achieved through imaging. Computed tomography (CT) is widely considered an exemplary test in the diagnosis of AAP in adult patients. As previous studies show disparities in healthcare treatment based on insurance status, our objective was to assess the association between insurance status and frequency of CT ordered for adult patients presenting to the ED with AAP from 2005-2014.

Methods: This study used the National Hospital and Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: Emergency Department Record (NHAMCS) database, which collects data over a randomly-assigned four week period in the 50 states and DC, to perform an observational retrospective analysis of patients presenting to the ED with AAP. Patients with Medicaid, Medicare, or no insurance were compared to patients with private insurance. The association between insurance status and frequency of CT ordered was measured by obtaining odds ratios along with 95% CIs adjusted for age, gender, and race/ethnicity.

Findings: Individuals receiving Medicaid are 20% less likely to receive CT than those with private insurance (OR 0.8, CI 0.6-0.99, p=0.046). Those on Medicare or who are uninsured have no difference in odds of obtaining a CT scan as compared to patients with private insurance. Additional findings are that female patients are 15% less likely to receive CT scan, and black patients are 40% less likely.

Discussion: Our study shows that patients with Medicaid who presented with AAP were less likely to receive the same standard of diagnosis as those with private insurance. Although many physicians may not be aware of a patient's insurance status when they present to the ED, our results suggest that physicians have an implicit bias based on insurance status when treating patients. The study also uncovered a possible disparity based on race; blacks had lower odds of receiving the same standard of care when compared to whites. In order to ensure equitable treatment among all patients, more research on provider bias is needed as well as strategies to eliminate these biases.

Implications for Practice: Patients on Medicaid are significantly less likely to received a CT when presenting to the ED with AAP. Differences in diagnostic care may correlate to inferior health outcomes in patients without private insurance.

Publication Date


Presented At:

2018 West Kendall Baptist Hospital Scholarly Showcase

Content Type



Authors (FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Affiliates):

Bailey Roberts, B.S. Medical Student

Erik VerHage, B.S. Medical Student

Resse Courington, B.S. Medical Student

Open Access

Available to all.