Conscious and Unconscious Biases in Health Care

1. Defining Bias

Defining Bias and its ManifestationsIt is important to understand bias and its multiple manifestations in our efforts to address disparities and inequities. The Institute of Medicine concluded in 2003 that “bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and clinical uncertainty on the part of health care providers may contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in health care.”1(p19)

Although health care practitioners, whose professions epitomize helping others, find it very difficult to accept that they may indeed harbor biases that result in differential treatment and care provided to their patients, bias is an attribute that exists in all humans as a natural sociobiological process.2 The obligation of health care practitioners is to become aware of their biases and take action to mitigate the effects.