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A Prospective Examination of Racial Microaggressions in the Medical Encounter


Disparities in healthcare and health outcomes between whites and non-whites continue to plague the US healthcare system. A large literature suggests that people of color face obstacles at various points in the healthcare system. This article examines one such obstacle: whether patients of color experience microaggressions from physicians during primary care medical visits. A majority of microaggression studies are qualitative and retrospective in nature. In the current study, we use a prospective approach to broaden how microaggressions are measured, as well as understand differential treatment of racial minorities within healthcare. Using data derived from audio recordings of medical visits (n = 224), we utilize a quantitative measure to examine microaggressions in the medical encounter. We find that when race status differences are present between patient and physician, patients of color are more likely to experience microaggressions from their physician. The results suggest that medical encounters differ depending on characteristics of the parties involved. These differences may not only perpetuate the differential treatment of people of color but also contribute to health disparities for people of color.

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Correspondence to Leslie Riggle Miller or B. Mitchell Peck.

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Miller, L.R., Peck, B.M. A Prospective Examination of Racial Microaggressions in the Medical Encounter. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 7, 519–527 (2020).

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  • Microaggressions
  • Provider-patient communication
  • Medical encounter
  • Health disparities
  • Race