Discrimination in Healthcare Essay Example

  • Category: Health, Health Care,
  • Words: 1025 Pages: 4
  • Published: 17 March 2021
  • Copied: 160

Discrimination, a widespread “disease,” happens to affect a majority of healthcare systems in the United States. By law, it is illegal to deny services or other benefits, provide an inconsistent service or benefit race to race, or any other form of segregation regarding services offered, yet it still occurs in the twenty-first century. It takes multitudes of forms, unconsciously and consciously. Time and time again, minority groups are faced with bombardments of racist prejudices during their daily lives, that one should never have to face. This sad reality affects not only health workers, but the users of health services as well. Discrimination deters people from accessing health services, deprives people of their dignity, and creates an unsafe environment for all communities.

After analyzing 13,897 different responses, researchers at UC San Francisco, Stanford University, and UC Berkeley found that one in five patients reported discrimination in health care, with blacks most likely to name race and whites and Hispanics most likely to name age, weight or income. Discrimination in health care services is associated with worse health, lower ussage of services, and lower satisfaction overall. This 2017 study also revealed that 27 percent of blacks with a major chronic health condition reported to experience discrimination. For many, their interaction with the health system is their only connection to a state institution, which directly shapes their beliefs of citizenship. (Nittle). This interaction also serves to reinforce their exclusion from society, further discriminating against them to an even greater extent. 

Most providers in the healthcare system are not inherently racist, they operate in an inherently racist system. Racism and discrimination are deeply ingrained in the constructs of our society and have been since the beginning of its existence as a whole. While there are a multitude of laws enacted to protect against this specifically, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination Act, Affordable Care Act, etc., laws are not necessarily enforced one-hundred percent of the time. This thus results in unfair treatment based on race, age, family history, etc. Providers are often left unchecked and unattended for their actions and prejudices, allowing no consequences to occur. 

Inherit racism may also be a cause of discrimination in the healthcare system. Many physicians remain unaware of their unconscious racial biases. A study in 2012 revealed that two-thirds of doctors exhibited racial bias towards patients (Nittle). This was determined through the usage of a “Implicit Association Test,” a computerized test that calculates the speed at which the test subjects associate people from different races with negative or or positive terms, and those who associate people of a certain race with positive terms more quickly favor that race. The same study also found that they thought their white patients were more likely to abide by orders. The health care providers were forty eight percent white, twenty-two percent black, and thirty percent Asian. 

Communication also plays a role in discrimation, or lack-thereof, so-to-speak. Racial biases influence the way doctors communicate with their patients. Doctors with racial biases tend to lecture black patientes, speak more slowly to them, and make their average office visit longer. 

The previous study also examined an analysis of recordings of visits between fourty healthcare professionals and two hundred and sixty nine patients from January to August over a four year span. Patients were asked to fill out a survey about their visits after meeting with the doctors, and further concluded that poor communication between patient and doctor can cause the patients to cancel follow up visits due to less trust in their doctor. On top of this, the survey results also revealed that doctors who lead the conversation increase the risk of making patients feel as if they do not care about their needs.

A separate study by the University of Washington found that bias may lead to physicians to improperly manage the pain of people who are minorities, such as being reluctant to give black patients strong doses of pain medication (Nittle). The study showed that doctors who were pro-white were more likely to give black patients ibuprofen instead of oxycodone, a much stronger drug. Doctors were also less likely to monitor the pain of black children with sickle cell anemia, or to give black men visiting emergency rooms with chest pain complaints test to identify what the root issue is such as X-rays, EKGs, and other forms of cardiac monitoring. A different study, one from the University of Michigan Health found that the black patients referred to pain clinics were receiving almost half of the amount of medicine used to treat pain compared to someone who is white, further indicating that racism is still a factor when practicing medicine.

The question still remains unanswered, how can one prevent bias in medicine from occurring to those affected? To fight discrimination and racism in the healthcare system, one must first recognize and label these prejiduces. They should then own up and control and identify one’s own biases. After this, the next best option is to safely manage their biases and use their knowledge in order to educate others. It is then critical to establish a health care system in which discrimination does not occur so often as it does now. There needs to be accountability for their actions when this does occur, even when current laws often contradict the evidence. This means new laws might also need to be enacted to further prevent racial discrimination in healthcare.  

The black community, or any minority group in fact, is deterred from accessing health services, deprived people of their dignity, and creates an unsafe environment for all communities, all resulting in worse overall care, just for their race and social-ecconomic status. Discrimination will not “magically” disappear all of a sudden. Doctors are most likely unwilling to undergo the training necessary to treat all patients equally, which is also a problem in need of attention. When physicians giving care do end up letting their biases affect care, the appropriate punishment is carried out. Although it is deeply ingrained in our society and culture as a whole, racism can be riddled out of the healthcare system in the near future. 

Works Cited

“Ending Discrimination in Health Care Settings.” World Health Organization, World Health


Health-care-settings. Accessed 20 September 2019

“Health Care Discrimination.” Findlaw, civilrights.findlaw.com/discrimination/

health-care-discrimination.html. Accessed 20 September 2019.

Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “4 Ways Racism in Health Care Is Still a Problem Today.” ThoughtCo,

13 Feb. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/racism-in-health-care-

Still-a-problem-2834530. Accessed 20 September 2019.

“Office of Minority Health.” Black/African American - The Office of Minority Health,

www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61.Accessed 20 September 2019.

University of California - San Francisco. "One in 5 patients report discrimination in health care:

Blacks most likely to name race; whites and Hispanics age, weight or income."

ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2017. 

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171214140840.htm. Accessed 20 September 2019.



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