The Effects of Race and Racial Concordance on Patient-Physician Communication: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Abstract

Objective

Racial disparities exist in health care, even when controlling for relevant sociodemographic variables. Recent data suggest disparities in patient-physician communication may also contribute to racial disparities in health care. This study aimed to systematically review studies examining the effect of black race and racial concordance on patient-physician communication.

Methods

A comprehensive search using the PRISMA guidelines was conducted across seven online databases between 1995 and 2016. The search resulted in 4672 records for review and 40 articles for final inclusion in the review. Studies were included when the sample consisted of black patients in healthcare contexts and the communication measure was observational or patient-reported. Data were extracted by pairs of authors who independently coded articles and reconciled discrepancies. Results were synthesized according to predictor (race or racial concordance) and communication domain.

Results

Studies were heterogeneous in health contexts and communication measures. Results indicated that black patients consistently experienced poorer communication quality, information-giving, patient participation, and participatory decision-making than white patients. Results were mixed for satisfaction, partnership building, length of visit, and talk-time ratio. Racial concordance was more clearly associated with better communication across all domains except quality, for which there was no effect.

Conclusions

Despite mixed results due to measurement heterogeneity, results of the present review highlight the importance of training physicians and patients to engage in higher quality communication with black and racially discordant patients by focusing on improving patient-centeredness, information-giving, partnership building, and patient engagement in communication processes.

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Acknowledgments

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Megan Johnson Shen.

Ethics declarations

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report and have conducted this study following all required ethical standards and with proper IRB consent at participating institutions. No human research subjects were directly involved in this study as it was a systematic review of the literature, thus informed consent was not required.

Sources of Funding

This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute (T32-CA009461 and P30-CA008748). The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Cancer Institute or the National Institutes of Health.

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Shen, M.J., Peterson, E.B., Costas-Muñiz, R. et al. The Effects of Race and Racial Concordance on Patient-Physician Communication: A Systematic Review of the Literature. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 5, 117–140 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-017-0350-4

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Keywords

  • Race
  • Racial concordance
  • Patient-physician communication
  • Disparities