Attending physicians less likely to respond to minorities' messages: Study

Racial and ethnic minorities experienced lower response rates from attending physicians for patient portal messages, but higher response rates from registered nurses, indicating potential disparities in triage prioritization, a March 18 study published in JAMA Network Open found. 

The study analyzed patient portal messages sent by patients at Boston Medical Center to assess if there were differences in care team responses to patient portal messages by patient race and ethnicity. The study analyzed approximately 40,000 patients of White, Black, Hispanic and Asian backgrounds and their 57,704 patient portal messages sent from January to November 2021.

Researchers found that patients from marginalized racial or ethnic backgrounds had equal chances of receiving responses to their patient portal messages compared to their White counterparts. However, those from marginalized racial or ethnic backgrounds were less likely to receive responses from attending physicians.

For example, the likelihood of a Black patient receiving a response from an attending physician was 3.95 percentage points lower compared to White patients, according to the study. 

"Our findings highlight potential disparities in how those resources are allocated across patient groups," the researchers wrote. "Understanding and addressing these disparities will be necessary for improving care equity and informing algorithms."

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