Perceived Racial Discrimination in Health Care and Race Differences in Physician Trust

Abstract

Racial discrimination in health care is more often perceived by racial minority patients than by whites. In this study, we explored whether two types of perceived racial discrimination, perceptions that the healthcare system is racially biased in general (perceived institutional racial discrimination) and perceptions that one has personally encountered racial discrimination while seeking health care (perceived interpersonal racial discrimination), mediated racial differences in patients’ trust in physicians. We examined this in a sample of black (N = 127) and white (N = 303) patients being treated in two Veterans Affairs orthopedic clinics for advanced osteoarthritis. Patients completed measures of perceived institutional and interpersonal racial discrimination in health care before meeting with an orthopedic surgeon and a measure of physician trust after the visit. Using a multiple mediator bootstrapping procedure, we tested whether perceived institutional and/or interpersonal racial discrimination mediated the association between race and trust. Compared to whites, blacks reported lower physician trust (M = 4.00 vs. 4.17, β = −0.15, 95 % CI = −0.25, −0.05), more perceived institutional racial discrimination (M = 3.13 vs. 2.60, β = 0.43, 95 % CI = 0.25, 0.61), and more perceived interpersonal racial discrimination (M = 1.94 vs. 1.21, β = 0.60, 95 % CI = 0.47, 0.74). Perceived interpersonal, but not institutional, racial discrimination mediated the race difference in physician trust and accounted for 55 % of the variance. Our finding that lower physician trust among black patients than white patients was explained by perceptions of interpersonal racial discrimination in health care suggests that issues of racial discrimination may need to be addressed in order to foster minority patients’ trust in physicians.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development, Health Services Research and Development Service (IIR 04-137, PI: Said A. Ibrahim). Dr. Hausmann’s effort was supported by the Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Career Development Program (RCD 06-287). The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government.

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Correspondence to Leslie R. M. Hausmann.

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Hausmann, L.R.M., Kwoh, C.K., Hannon, M.J. et al. Perceived Racial Discrimination in Health Care and Race Differences in Physician Trust. Race Soc Probl 5, 113–120 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-013-9092-z

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Keywords

  • Trust in physicians
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Health disparities
  • Osteoarthritis