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Modest and UnevenPhysician Efforts to Reduce Racial/Ethnic Disparities
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Nearly half (48.6%) of all U.S. physicians in 2008 reported that difficulty communicating with patients because of language or cultural barriers was at least a minor problem affecting their ability to provide high-quality care, though less than 5 percent viewed it as a major problem, according to the study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Despite consensus in the medical community about steps physicians can take to address racial and ethnic disparities, physician adoption of several recommended practices to improve care for minority patients ranged from 7 percent reporting they have the capability to track patients preferred language to 40 percent reporting they have received training in minority health issues to slightly more than half reporting their practices provide some interpreter services, the study found.
"Although disparities certainly stem from factors beyond the physician-patient encounter, the ability of physicians to communicate effectively with patients from diverse backgrounds is important to providing high-quality care," said HSC Senior Researcher James Reschovsky, Ph.D., coauthor of the study with HSC Health Research Analyst Ellyn R. Boukus, M.A.
Physicians were asked whether their practice provides interpreter services; whether their practice provides patient-education materials in languages other than English; whether they have received training in minority health issues; whether they receive reports containing patient demographic information, such as race or ethnicity; whether their practice has information technology (IT) to identify patients preferred language; and whether they receive reports about the quality of care delivered to minority patients.
Based on HSCs nationally representative 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, the study findings are detailed in a new HSC Issue BriefModest and Uneven: Physician Efforts to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparitiesavailable here. Funded by RWJF, the survey includes responses from more than 4,700 physicians, and the response rate was 62 percent.
Other key findings include:
The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nations changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research.