BALTIMORE—Primary care physicians who hold unconscious racial biases tend to dominate conversations with African-American patients during routine visits, paying less attention to patients’ social and emotional needs and making these patients feel less involved in decision making related to their health, Johns Hopkins researchers report.
The patients also reported reduced trust in their doctors, less respectful treatment and a lower likelihood of recommending the biased doctor to a friend.
In a report published in the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers say the findings provide new evidence that even when racial bias is not overt, it can have a negative impact on the way care is delivered and the quality of the doctor-patient relationship. It reinforces the idea that there may be a link between racial biases and stereotypes playing out in the doctor-patient relationship and the racial disparities found across healthcare settings in the United States.
“If patients have good patient-centered interactions with their doctors, we know they’re more likely to follow through with care, make follow-up appointments and better control diseases such as diabetes and depression," said study leader Lisa A. Cooper, MD, MPH, a professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This study suggests that unconscious racial attitudes may be standing in the way of positive interactions to the detriment of patient health."