PHYSICIAN-PATIENT DECISIONS: Race, Gender Play Role
Patients are more likely to participate in decisionmaking about medical care if their physicians are women or if their physicians are of the same race, according to a study in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. USA Today reports that the study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, involved 1,816 telephone interviews with adults in the Washington, D.C., area who were asked to rate the "participatory decision-making style" of their doctors. Results indicate that blacks were less likely than whites to feel involved in their treatment decisions if their physician was of a different race. According to researcher Lisa Cooper-Patrick, "the racial differences found in the study raise a red flag suggesting that doctors need better training to interact with patients of different backgrounds." However, National Medical Association President Gary Dennis, whose organization represents 25,000 black physicians, asserts that "medical schools aren't doing much cross-cultural training, and minorities are underrepresented among medical students and physicians." Dennis notes that doctors "are influenced by 'racial biases and stereotypes' that permeate medical literature" and concludes, "We have a lot of work to do" (Painter, 8/11). Study results also show that age and length of the doctor-patient relationship play a role in patient participation. Patients between the ages of 40 and 65 were more likely to feel involved in their treatment decisions than those under 30, while those who had known their doctor for three years or longer felt more engaged in treatment decisions. Cooper-Patrick said the study results show a need for "more minority physicians and more training in communication skills for physicians and nurses (Reuters/Nando Times, 8/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.