Are Physicians Responsible for Minority Health Disparities? (Doctor-Patient Relations)

Article excerpt

SAN DIEGO--There is a growing recognition that some of the disparity in health and mortality among racial/ethnic groups in this country is due to physician-patient relations, Dr. Denise V Rodgers said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"Until [physicians] break down some of our belief system barriers, we are going to continue to see these disparities," said Dr. Rodgers, the associate dean for community health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey.

"Unequal Treatment," issued this year by the Institute of Medicine, implies that "one major contributor to the disparity that we see has to do with the kind of treatment minority patients get when they enter the health system," she said.

The report is based in part on a 2001 survey by the Commonwealth Fund that found that minority patients tend to mistrust the medical establishment and report that they feel disrespected by physicians and others in the system.

Some of the findings of the survey that Dr. Rodgers highlighted included:

* Minority patients are more likely to forgo asking any questions of their doctors. Where 10% of white patients reported having questions they did not ask at their last physician visit, 13% of black patients and 19% of Hispanic patients reported not asking questions they had.

* Minority patients report more communication difficulties. Among white patients, 68% said their doctor listened to everything they said at their last appointment. But only 57% of Hispanic patients said their doctor listened to everything, and only 49% of Asian patients felt that way. Overall, 66% of surveyed patients said they understood everything their doctor said, but only 61% of black patients, 56% of Hispanic patients, and 48% of Asian patients did. …