How Bias and Racism Affect Health
Racism and bias influence health outcomes in a variety of ways.
Provider bias occurs during clinical interactions when the quality of health care is directly affected by the provider’s own, internal bias. Often, this happens unintentionally and without the provider’s knowledge.
Health care providers and their organizations are influenced by the same biases that exist within the larger community. Harm can happen when a provider consciously or subconsciously makes assumptions about a patient based on their stored knowledge associated with a characteristic of that patient.
For example, a provider might draw unfounded conclusions about a patient’s ability to pay or likelihood to comply with follow-up instructions because of the patient’s race and alter their recommended treatment as a result. Or, a provider may miss a critical diagnosis by substituting their knowledge associated with a patient’s ethnicity over careful evaluation of the patient as an individual. When provider bias occurs, it erodes the trust between the patient and provider, further affecting quality of care.
Health care providers and organizations can address provider bias by intentionally changing their own actions, and institutional processes and culture.