Do doctors hold back when talking to minorities?

A survey of more than 1,200 American adults suggests that race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors may affect how much information doctors share with patients about treatment decisions. (Credit: iStockphoto)

Black and Hispanic people may receive less information from their doctors than non-minorities do regarding the rationale for making treatment decisions, surveys show.

The results are based on responses from about 1,240 adult Americans. Overall, 93 percent of respondents indicated their doctors discussed reasons for their recommendations, including past patient experiences, scientific research, and costs.

But, “the results indicated racial/ethnic minorities received less information from their doctors regarding the rationale for treatment decision making on some, but not all, of the dimensions assessed,” according to a study in the journal Patient Education and Counseling led by Meng-Yun Lin, a PhD candidate in health policy and management at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

However, the racial and ethnic disparities disappeared after accounting for the sociodemographic characteristics of respondents, such as income.

“This suggests that the observed racial/ethnic disparities in overall information sharing are explained by socioeconomic factors that often ‘travel’ with race, such as gender, income, and insurance status,” they write.

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Patients’ perceptions of conversations about treatment decisions might vary according to the context of communication occurring during clinical encounters. Minority patients may be “more aware of the lack of conversations regarding doctors’ own experiences and scientific research, than of discussions of cost and how well a treatment works compared to other less expensive treatments.”

The study’s findings are consistent with prior research that has shown “less information sharing, rapport building, or use of other empathic bonding strategies with racial/ethnic minority patients,” the authors write.

Source: Boston University