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Does US Healthcare Have a Blindspot?

Healthcare Blindspot

Apollo’s healthcare disparity research explored perceptions among U.S. healthcare providers and patients through quantitative methods. This research included evaluations of perceptions and practices through image research, personal experiences, and observations of healthcare professionals (HCPs) by their colleagues.

One of the more interesting findings in this research was related to implicit bias. Findings show that only one third of HCPs report familiarity with implicit bias. This lack of familiarity with implicit bias by medical professionals appears to create related treatment challenges for HCPs.

Close to half of HCPs report that they have witnessed a colleague apply bias to a case based on a patient’s sex or race. Less than a third report that they have recognized any instances of bias playing out in their own behavior towards patients. However, 53% of all patient respondents—and 56% of non-white patients and 58% of female patients—report instances of feeling like an HCP had not taken their concerns seriously.

Most anecdotes of bias regarding colleagues involve dismissing female patients’ pain and symptoms as histrionics and not trusting black patients’ use of medication.

“Colleagues often consider females to be more histrionic and have psychiatric conditions that contribute to their medical issues or motives for seeking medical aid. There is quite a bit of eye rolling among my colleagues regarding young female patients.” Noted a Primary Care Physician (PCP) respondent.

Reports of personal bias are similar to that of colleagues—most involve mistrust of minorities and females when it comes to accurately reporting symptoms and procuring pain medication.

“Admittedly I have done so with women who have presented with pain and because they may insert more emotional content into their symptoms, I have presumed their complaints to be functional in nature.” Shared a Rheumatologist who responded.

Minority and female patients report instances of not being believed or heard by their HCPs, and some share that they were denied treatment until their symptoms worsened.

“I told my doctor that diabetes runs in my family and I thought I had it. He kept saying no but I felt sick and had all the symptoms. Finally I came back extremely sick and he checked my blood sugar. He finally took my diagnosis seriously but I could have died.” Shared a Hispanic female patient with diabetes surveyed.

Apollo’s Blindspot—Exposing Disparities in U.S. Care Delivery research was gathered for HCPs from May 20-26, 2021, with a 9-minute MicroSurvey. The audience of n=350 included 50 clinicians from each of the following groups: Primary Care Physicians, Nurses, Oncologists, Cardiologists, Neurologists, Pulmonologists, and Rheumatologists. HCP respondents represented a 50/50 split between white people and people of color (POC). They needed to treat an ethnically diverse population and had to treat both men and women.

Additionally, HCPs report that on average, 40% of their patients are white, 21% are black, and 18% are Hispanic. An average of 67% of respondents’ patients have a household income below $75,000. And HCP’s have a mostly even split of male to female patients.

The n=200 patients received a 6-minute MicroSurvey, fielded between May 20-30, 2021. Patient respondents were split 50/50 between white people and POC. They had to be diagnosed with a medical condition and had to have seen a doctor within the last year. The conditions of the patient respondents included: asthma/COPD, diabetes, hypertension, migraines, AI conditions, and MS.

The patient research also had slightly more female patients compared to male. No significant differences are present related to race and health condition.

For more information, please refer to the Blindspot—Exposing Disparities in U.S. Care Delivery Report for the complete set of findings.

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