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Whites, African-Americans better rate medical care experiences when seeing same-race physicians

White and African-American patients who see physicians of the same race rate their medical visits as more satisfying and participatory than do those who see physicians of other races, even when the nature of the conversation in both types of visits is similar, a Johns Hopkins study finds.

Results of the study of audiotaped conversations between physicians and patients showed that medical visits between patients and physicians of the same race were two minutes longer on average, and characterized by patients as having a more positive overall emotional tone and higher satisfaction rating. The report is published in the December 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Lisa A. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and of health policy and management at Hopkins, says people tend to speak slower when they are more comfortable and relaxed, which could account for the longer visit times in race-concordant visits. "Even when the verbal content of the visits was the same, perceptions of the visit were more positive in race-concordant visits, suggesting that patient and physician attitudes and expectations, rather than the actual words used to communicate, may have affected patients' experiences," Cooper says.

Teaching communication skills to physicians is important to improve the patient-physician relationship, she says. "However, this study suggests that simply training physicians to make conversation in race-discordant visits mimic that of race-concordant visits may not be enough to improve patients' experiences in visits with a physician of a different race. Increasing ethnic diversity among physicians and engendering trust and comfort between patients and physicians of different races may be the best strategies to improve health care experiences for members of ethnic minority groups."

For the study, Cooper and colleagues evaluated physician-patient communication during the medical visit
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Contact: Karen Blum
kblum@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
3-Dec-2003


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