26 Jan Underserved Patients: Minority Physicians’ Role
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Marrast: We found that disadvantaged patients (categorized as racial and ethnic minorities, non-English home language speakers, being low income, having Medicaid, or reporting fair or poor health) were more likely than other patients to be cared for by a minority physician.
A majority, 54%, of black, Hispanic and Asian patients received care from a minority doctor and the vast majority, 70%, of those who report not speaking English at home got care from a minority physician.
Among all racial groups there was a high likelihood of receiving care from a physician of the same race.
A higher proportion of patients of black doctors were obese and needed an emergency room visit in the last 12 months but this was not the case for patients of Asian and Hispanic physicians.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Marrast: The findings are generalizable to those with a usual source of care. Fewer US residents currently have a person that they go to for their usual source of care than 2 decades ago. Additional research is needed to understand why this may be.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Marrast: With the increasing diversity of the US population, diversity should be an explicit mission of medical establishments. Medical schools serve as a “valve” in the supply of physicians. We need to ensure that public institutions are held socially accountable in producing physicians that will serve all strata of the US population. The needs of all communities should dictate the doctors that are produced.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research?
Dr. Marrast: Future research focused on understanding what the barriers are to medical schools increasing the ranks of minority physicians. Additional work is needed to demonstrate the benefits of diversity in health care settings. Lastly, there is a need to monitor the impact of the Affordable Care Act on underserved populations.
Marrast LM, Zallman L, Woolhandler S, Bor DH, McCormick D. Minority Physicians’ Role in the Care of Underserved Patients: Diversifying the Physician Workforce May Be Key in Addressing Health Disparities. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.12756.