When graduates in medical school are taught about ethics, they are asked to treat the patients equally irrespective of their cultural or personal backgrounds. These aspects are not to be considered while making sound clinical decision-making while treating these patients. However, I have observed that even unknowingly, healthcare providers are often subjected to unconscious bias. There are few factors that might give direction to the medical decision-making process. Thee factors are inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, insurance status as well as the clinical settings (FitzGerald, 2017). Studies have shown that the decision making for a patient not only relies on the clinical symptoms, but also depends on the various factors enlisted above. These unconscious biases can also lead to false assumptions and thus, negative healthcare outcomes in the patients. I strongly believe that these negative outcomes can be life-threatening for a patient, especially when the situation is critical. These disparities have to be paid attention to from the point of view of harm minimization for the common patient population.
The disparities in the healthcare settings can be considered to be racial or ethical in origin. People are generally subjected to many unconscious biases regarding the condition of their treatment due to multiple underlying factors. These factors are based on sex of the patient, their educational level, socioeconomic status, their age, their residential location or if they are having any kind of disability. These factors not only give rise to health disparities, but can have a detrimental effect on the individual as well. I strongly believe that these health disparities alter with not only the person who is being mistreated, but with other individuals as well, who are directly involved in this process of health care delivery (Maina, 2019). These healthcare disparities and bias, also limits the required quality of health, when a broader group of population is treated by the healthcare professionals. The more diverse is the group the more pertinent is the healthcare disparity. To narrow down this bias, various social determinants have to be set apart from the bounds of healthcare bias. These determinants can be inclusive of education and poverty. This is imperative to ensure that the root causes of healthcare disparities are promptly addressed to.
Various bias, towards various cultural sect is often observed in healthcare services. I strongly think that the main reason for this can be considered to be stereotyping. However, when questioned openly, the healthcare professionals might define themselves as not being the one chasing stereotypes. However, these biases can be quite insidious in nature and one way or the other the person gets exposed to it (Wakefield, 2017). There are certain set stereotypes which are passed on from one generation to another and thus, a legacy if formed, observing these stereotypes being practiced in daily lives routine of these medical professionals. There are many common stereotypes observed by healthcare professionals while delivering care to their patients. Some of these commonly followed stereotypes include the below-mentioned:
Various strategies for narrowing down these stereotypes can be opted. This will be evidently helpful in reducing the overall bias in the healthcare system. These can be inclusive of the following:
This process can be a lifelong one, so adequate time and attention is to be given to make these reforms. Cultural competency to reduce healthcare bias can solely be attained with the help of person-centred approach (Madeira, 2018). This effort will be helpful in ensuring smooth facilitation of communication and thus, reducing the bias in the whole healthcare system, through the means of input provided from a patient. This inequality is important to be resolved to reduce inequality as well as discrimination, especially when it a matter of life and death.
As the healthcare professionals are directly engaged in the process of delivery healthcare solutions to the patients, they can play a vital role in reducing this bias by addressing them from grass-root level. The healthcare providers can be a contributor to these reforms through following approaches:
Eliminating healthcare disparities should be considered to be of the highest importance. This is vital from the point of view of reducing the harm to not only the patient but to the healthcare providers as well. The healthcare professionals have to dig a little deeper to know the details of the aspects that might give rise to these biases. This will be helpful in treating this situation, right from its root cause. As these biases in the healthcare system are found to impair the clinical judgement and decision-making of the healthcare professionals, it is imperative that these elements should be marginalized and narrowed down, to lower their overall impact on the healthcare delivery system and its deliverance quality as well. These changes are also crucial in the existing framework as they directly affect the patient healthcare outcomes, by interfering with the patient-doctor interaction. To abide by the regulations of the treatment protocol in place, these disparities are imperative and necessary to be resolved right from their roots.
Burgess, D. J., Bokhour, B. G., Cunningham, B. A., Do, T., Gordon, H. S., Jones, D. M., ... & Gollust, S. E. (2019). Healthcare providers’ responses to narrative communication about racial healthcare disparities. Health Communication, 34(2), 149-161. DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2017.1389049
FitzGerald, C., & Hurst, S. (2017). Implicit bias in healthcare professionals: a systematic review. BMC Medical Ethics, 18(1), 19. DOI https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-017-0179-8
Madeira, A. F., Pereira, C. R., Gama, A., & Dias, S. (2018). Justifying treatment bias: The legitimizing role of threat perception and immigrant–provider contact in healthcare. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 24(2), 294. DOI https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/cdp0000187
Maina, I. W., Belton, T. D., Ginzberg, S., Singh, A., & Johnson, T. J. (2018). A decade of studying implicit racial/ethnic bias in healthcare providers using the implicit association test. Social Science & Medicine, 199, 219-229. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.05.009
Wakefield, K., & Feo, R. (2017). Confronting obesity, stigma and weight bias in healthcare with a person centred care approach: A case study. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, 25(1), 28. DOI
Walker, R. V., Powers, S. M., & Witten, T. M. (2017). Impact of anticipated bias from healthcare professionals on perceived successful aging among transgender and gender nonconforming older adults. LGBT health, 4(6), 427-433. DOI https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2016.0165
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