Minority Doctors Have More Difficulty Obtaining Services for Patients than White Doctors
A study published Aug. 9 in Medscape General Medicine, a online medical journal, revealed that African-American and Hispanic doctors nationwide have "greater difficulty" obtaining hospital admissions and specialty referrals for patients than white physicians, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. In a the study, researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change found that 36% of African-American doctors and 32% of Hispanic doctors could not obtain "necessary" hospital admissions for patients, compared to 24% of white physicians. Researchers also found that 12% of African-American doctors and almost 15% of Hispanic doctors "had a hard time" obtaining specialty referrals, compared to about 8% of white physicians. "The study continues to document barriers to health care for minority patients," Dr. Lee Hargraves, lead author of the study, said (Lou, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/10). He added, "The inability of minority physicians to obtain needed specialty and hospital care for patients likely contributes to the well-documented health disparities among African Americans, Hispanics and whites" (HSC release, 8/9).
Although researchers excluded differences in physicians' experience, years of practice and location and patients' incomes, the study found that "minority doctors are less able" to obtain health care services for patients, Hargraves said. He said that discrimination against minority doctors or patients "could be a factor," but added that patient income "plays an important role." HSC researchers conducted the biannual study, a survey of about 12,300 physicians in 60 communities, between 1998 and 1999 (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/10). In an accompanying editorial, Drs. Cheryl and Eric Whitaker of Northwestern University's Institute for Health Services and Policy Studies, wrote that the study "sheds light on an important yet understudied area" (HSC release, 8/9). According to Cheryl Whitaker, patients in underserved areas often lack health insurance or access to health care (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/10).