Majority of Black, Hispanic, Native patients brace for insults in healthcare settings, study says

More than half of all Black, Hispanic and American Indian and Alaska Native patients say they have to mentally prepare themselves for receiving insults at healthcare visits, according to results from a KFFKFF study released Dec. 5.

Experiences of racism and its overall effect on healthcare were the center focus of the survey, which polled 6,292 U.S. adults from primarily diverse backgrounds, aiming to understand how deeply pervasive the systemic issues can be. 

The results also revealed that even when an insult from a provider may not be direct, sometimes the assumptions they may make without asking a patient are harmful to diverse patients. The survey found that situations where a patient may have been blamed for their own health condition, had requests ignored or denied, or have been refused medication are common. 

Nearly 25% of Black patients report experiencing these interactions from a provider. This is the same experience 20% of American Indian and Alaska Native patients, 15% of Hispanic patients and 11% of Asian patients report encountering as well — compared to just 4% for white individuals.  

Even outside of healthcare walls, experiencing discrimination and racism significantly changes healthcare outcomes. Individuals who are affected by these encounters are far more likely to experience anxiety, loneliness and depression than those who do not, according to the report. 

Individuals with darker skin tones often report more extreme experiences of discrimination and racism, which in turn further exacerbates other health outcomes as well.

"While there have been efforts in health care for decades to document disparities and advance health equity, this survey shows the impact racism and discrimination continue to have on people’s health care experiences," Drew Altman, PhD, KFF president and CEO stated in a Dec. 5 news release. "And people in the survey reported that racism and discrimination have affected not only the care they get, but also their health and well-being."

The survey is part of the organization's ongoing efforts to document and understand how systemic issues like racism affect healthcare across society. 

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