Did you ever think that your weight, your intelligence, your native language, or your insurance coverage might affect how your doctor perceives you, and the treatment he provides? Well it does, according to a survey of nearly 16,000 physicians across the United States.
A recent Medscape study showed that four in 10 doctors (40 percent) admitted to having some degree of bias toward certain groups of patients. Doctors age 45 or younger were more likely to engage in this behavior, the survey revealed.
Emergency department physicians are the most likely to have prejudices toward patients, with 62 percent reporting they held specific biases. Other doctors who said they have some degree of bias include orthopedists (50 percent), psychiatrists (48 percent), and family doctors and OB/GYNs (47 percent). Pathologists, radiologists, and cardiologists were the least likely to have preconceived notions about their patients.
The survey also found a link between doctor bias and burnout. Overall, 55 percent of physicians who said they are burned out also indicated they have prejudices against certain groups of patients.
Of the doctors who acknowledged a personal bias, the most common patient triggers were:
- Emotional problems (62 percent).
- Weight (52 percent).
- Intelligence (44 percent).
- Language differences (32 percent).
- Insurance coverage (23 percent).
While most doctors indicated that bias did not impact how they care for patients, some admitted that it did affect treatment, including 14 percent of the emergency department physicians. And many doctors said that because they are aware of their prejudices, they go out of their way to treat patients better, as a way of overcompensating.