Primary Care Physicians' Collection, Comfort, and Use of Race and Ethnicity in Clinical Practice in the United States

Vence L. Bonham, Nkeiruka I. Umeh, Brooke A. Cunningham, Khadijah E. Abdallah, Sherrill L. Sellers, Lisa A. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: The clinical utility of race and ethnicity has been debated. It is important to understand if and how race and ethnicity are communicated and collected in clinical settings. We investigated physicians' self-reported methods of collecting a patient's race and ethnicity in the clinical encounter, their comfort with collecting race and ethnicity, and associations with use of race in clinical decision-making. Methods: A national cross-sectional study of 787 clinically active general internists in the United States. Physicians' self-reported comfort with collecting patient race and ethnicity, their collection practices, and use of race in clinical care were assessed. Bivariate and multivariable regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between comfort, collection practices, and use of race. Results: Most physicians asked patients to self-report their race or ethnicity (26.5%) on an intake form or collected this information directly from patients (26.2%). Most physicians were comfortable collecting patient race and ethnicity (84.3%). Physicians who were more comfortable collecting patient race and ethnicity (β=1.65; [95% confidence interval; CI 0.03-3.28]) or who directly collected patients' race and ethnicity (β=1.24 [95% CI 0.07-2.41]) were more likely to use race in clinical decision-making than physicians who were uncomfortable. Conclusions: This study documents variation in physician comfort level and practice patterns regarding patient race and ethnicity data collection. As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, future work should examine how physicians speak about race and ethnicity with patients and their use of race and ethnicity data impact patient-physician relationships, clinical decision-making, and patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-126
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Equity
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported, in part, by the Intramural Research Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (ZIAHG200324-12). Dr. Cooper is supported by a grant from the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (K24HL083113) of the National Institutes of Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent any position or policy of the National Human Genome Research Institute or the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2017, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2017.

Keywords

  • RACE scale
  • clinical decision-making
  • collection of race and ethnicity
  • physician behavior
  • physicians' use of race

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