It's difficult to tell whether racism underlies the differences seen in the study, said Dr. Eric D. Peterson, a professor of medicine from Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C., who wrote a commentary accompanying the report.
"That is hard to prove," Peterson said. "It is a diagnosis of exclusion. Patients don't notice a care differential, but when you look at the results, the care is different."
But doctors are human, and "dealing with people who are more similar to you can influence care," Peterson said. "The doctor-patient relationship can differ to the extent that you feel a commonality with that patient, and the patient feels a commonality with you."
Causes, symptoms and treatment of heart failure are described by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, medicine, University of California, San Francisco; Paul Underwood, M.D., medical director, interventional cardiology, Boston Scientific Corp., Boston; Eric Peterson, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, medicine, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, N.C.; March 19, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine