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Implicit Bias and Patient Care

Jul 14, 2020

Implicit bias is something all humans have. It includes attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious, unintended way. In the medical field, implicit bias can influence the way doctors treat their patients, resulting in mediocre care and poor patient experiences. Fortunately, there are ways for doctors to address their own implicit bias to be a better physician and provide excellent care to patients of all different backgrounds. 

Accepting Your Bias 

The first step to address unintended bias is to accept that you may let unconscious stereotypes influence how you view patients. Acknowledging your implicit bias can be hard at first, especially if you see yourself as an open-minded and non-judgemental person. It’s normal to feel sad or confused when learning to acknowledge unintended biases you may have, but it’s what you do with this acceptance and awareness to improve your patient care that matters. 

Taking Action 

Once you accept your implicit bias, the next step is taking action to prevent the bias from influencing care for your patients. According to an article from Medical Economics, physicians can take steps to minimize bias by getting to know their patients on a more personal level. Learning about their family life, career, etc. can help you see patients as individuals vs. a faceless member of a group. 

Another suggestion is including shared decision-making care in your treatment plan. You can explain different options to your patient and allow them to choose the treatment plan that works best for them. Shared decision-making care allows both you and your patient to communicate more clearly with each other and understand each person’s expectations better, resulting in a better provider and patient relationship. 

Why Reducing Implicit Bias Matters 

Taking steps to minimize implicit bias is necessary to ensure you are providing the best possible care for your patients. Implicit biases can unintentionally impact the way you treat patients, and leave patients unsatisfied with their experience. The Medical Economics article mentions that patients can often sense their physician’s attitude toward them and be less trusting of their doctor and treatment plan, resulting in patients stopping treatment altogether. Therefore, doctors must address and reduce their implicit bias to ensure that patients of all backgrounds receive the quality care they deserve to improve their health. 

 

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