How racism in the doctor’s office hurts patients

"This review provided evidence that healthcare provider racism exists, and demonstrated a need for more sophisticated approaches to assessing and monitoring it," says Mandy Truong. (Credit: Erik Wilde/Flickr)

Researchers reviewed dozens of studies published between 1995 and 2012 of racism among US healthcare providers and found that minority patients may face racist attitudes and beliefs that can affect their treatment.

The review assessed attitudes towards race held by physicians, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists and social workers, as well as support staff such as nursing aides involved in direct patient care.

Most of the 37 studies included in the review were conducted in the United States. The review findings are published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

“Twenty six of 37 studies published between 1995 and 2012 show evidence of racist beliefs, attitudes, and practices amongst healthcare providers,” says Mandy Truong from the University of Melbourne.

“This review provided evidence that healthcare provider racism exists, and demonstrated a need for more sophisticated approaches to assessing and monitoring it.”

Studies included in the review found providers had less positive perceptions about black patients in relation to level of intelligence and compliance with medical advice. It was also found that doctors had an implicit preference for white Americans relative to black Americans.

The findings of this review have substantial relevance to medical and healthcare provision, and highlight an ongoing need to recognize and counter racism among healthcare providers.

“There is an ongoing need for more sophisticated approaches to assessing and monitoring healthcare provider racism. Strategies could include greater education and awareness of the health consequences of racism as well as a more rigorous and sophisticated approach to monitoring racism among healthcare providers,” Truong says.

“Concurrently, introducing programs and approaches that dispel false beliefs and counter racial stereotypes as well as promoting intercultural understanding would also be beneficial.”

Source: University of Melbourne