Americans don't seem to care about the race or sex of emergency room doctors, a new study shows.
Participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with a simulated ER visit and the scores were the same whether their doctor was white or black, or a man or a woman.
"We were really surprised that even after looking at these data in many different ways, we did not see evidence of racial or gender bias affecting patient satisfaction or confidence. This is not to say that people are bias-free, but it did not appear to enter into their ratings of care in surveys," said lead author Dr. Rachel Solnick, a fellow in the clinical scholars program at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
"This is good news, with a grain of salt," she added in a university news release.
The findings don't mean emergency doctors won't ever have to deal with patients who express bias against them because of race, gender, age or other factors, Solnick added. The research was inspired by her own experience with bias as an emergency medicine resident.
Assessing patient bias is important because the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is testing the feasibility of a new survey tool for emergency department patients who aren't admitted to the hospital.
If adopted, the tool could lead to financial penalties for hospitals with low emergency department satisfaction ratings, as is already the case with patient ratings for other types of care.
"Patient satisfaction surveys have really altered the fabric of the emergency doctor/patient relationship, because in addition to thinking about the medical treatment, we also are considering how we will be 'graded' at the end of the encounter," Solnick said.
The study was published online Feb. 21 in JAMA Network Open.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains when you should go to the emergency room.
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