Patients Feel More Comfortable with Doctors Sharing Their Race: Study 
Thu, April 22, 2021

Patients Feel More Comfortable with Doctors Sharing Their Race: Study 


A new study showed that a doctor's race may ease their patient. Among Black patients, consulting with Black doctors often results in less anxiety and pain.

The new research linking the race between patients and doctors was conducted by researchers at the University of Miami, a US private research university. Researchers found that sharing the same race could create a sense of comfort. While the benefit could be detected among Blacks, it was not apparent among Hispanics. The racial concordance could reduce the pain experienced by patients. They published their findings in the journal Pain Medicine.

Race in America 2019

In the US, the race of an individual can matter significantly. It can affect their personal and professional lives. Many people of color have faced bullying, discrimination, and harassment because of their race or ethnicity, even if they live a decent life. Due to these effects, the tension between the races in the country grew in recent years.

According to a 2019 report by Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank, most Black adults have negative views on racial progress in the US. About 71% of Blacks viewed the progress negatively while 56% of Whites said the same. Around 73% of Blacks said that President Trump made race relations worse, compared to 49% of Whites who responded the same. Approximately 84% of Blacks said that the legacy of slavery played a role in the situation.

When it comes to social advantages, 59% of adult respondents said that being White either helps a lot or little in getting ahead. Between races, 56% of Whites, 69% of Blacks, 61% of Hispanics, and 73% of Asians said that being White helped to get ahead in the US. For being Black, 5% of Whites, 52% of Blacks, 24% of Hispanics, and 24% Asians said being Black hurt the ability to get ahead.



In terms of discrimination, 84% of Blacks said that discrimination is a major problem for Black people. An estimated 76% of Blacks said they had less access to high-paying jobs and 72% of Blacks said they had less access to good schools. Interestingly, 42% of Blacks said they had a less stable family and 31% of Blacks said they lacked good role models. If compared, 50% of Whites said they had a less stable family and 45% of Whites said they lacked good role models.

Equal social treatment was also included in the report. About 84% of Blacks said that Blacks were less treated fairly by police. While 87% of Blacks expressed the same in the criminal justice system. Economically, 82% of Blacks said that Blacks were less treated fairly in hiring, promotions, and pay. Around 74% of Blacks said that Blacks were less treated fairly when applying for a loan or mortgage.



Shared Race between Patients and Doctors Alleviates Anxiety and Pain

Because of racial discrimination in the US, some non-Whites prefer to consult with non-White doctors. But most sectors in the country are dominated by White people. This preference seems to be more common in Blacks than any other non-White race. And according to a recent study, there is a benefit in sharing the race, both physically and mentally.

"Black patients paired with Black doctors reported experiencing less pain across several types of measures than Black patients paired with Hispanic or non-Hispanic white doctors. This provides some evidence that Black patients were showing a benefit of having a doctor of their own race at multiple levels - showing pain relief in both their communication and their physiology," said Elizabeth Losin, an author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

In the study, researchers investigated the physical and psychological effects of ethnical or racial background of doctors on patients. They recruited non-Hispanic White, Hispanic, and Black patients to participate in a simulated doctor's appointment. Medical trainees acted the role of the doctor. The patients were given a series of mildly painful heat stimulations on their arm. Patients were instructed to indicate the intensity of the pain they experienced during the procedure. Researchers measured the physiological responses of the patients via sensors on patients' hands.

Some patients were paired with a doctor sharing their race and ethnicity. While others were paired with doctors from different ancestries. Researchers compared the pain intensity from two groups of patients. The most intriguing result was the pain reported by Black patients. Black patients paired with Black doctors had the lowest pain across all measurements. Their pain was also lower than Black patients paired with Hispanic or non-Hispanic White doctors.



To better understand the racial concordance in Black patients, they reviewed the introductory surveys completed by participants. The big clue was racial discrimination. Black patients were likely to say experience about racial or ethnic discrimination. They also were likely to be currently concerned about it, compared to other races. These patients had the greatest reduction in pain when they consulted with doctors of the same race.

Researchers interpreted the findings as Black patients felt less anxious about discrimination if their doctors were Blacks. They were unlikely to feel anxious because it was relatively impossible to be discriminated by a Black doctor.

Meanwhile, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Whites did not show statistical difference regardless of their doctor's race. Their pain levels across all measures were similar even if their doctor was from the same race. But researchers were surprised that Hispanic patients did not benefit when consulting with Hispanic doctors.

For that, they speculated that Hispanic patients might not view all Hispanic doctors similar to them. They noted that among Hispanics and Latinos, there is a high degree of cultural diversity. If the patients knew the cultural background of the doctor, they could have gained the benefit from the concordance.

The research team suggested future studies into the factors that may influence the racial concordance among Hispanics. Identifying these factors may help lower pain experienced by Hispanic patients.